Killings in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo committed by three rebel groups may constitute crimes against humanity, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.
Pillay’s office and the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Congo have documented more than 45 attacks on 30 villages in North Kivu province’s Masisi territory since May, the agencies said yesterday in a joint statement from Geneva.
“Allegations of hundreds of killings are still being verified,” Pillay said, according to the statement posted on the website of her office. “The sheer viciousness of these murders is beyond comprehension. In some cases, the attacks against civilians may constitute crimes against humanity.”
Congo is struggling to control worsening violence in its eastern provinces since hundreds of soldiers deserted the army and created a rebel group known as M23 in April. Battles between the M23 and the army have created a “security vacuum” throughout the region, allowing other rebel groups to flourish, according to the statement.
Rwandan ethnic-Hutu rebels known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, were responsible for several of the Masisi attacks, according to the statement. Raia Mutomboki, a group that says it is protecting Congolese from the FDLR, committed other atrocities, the UN said. A third armed group, Nyatura, occasionally helped the FDLR, it said.
The insecurity in eastern Congo has displaced about half a million people, according to the UN.