UN Watch Slams 'Toothless' Resolution on Congo, in Speech to UN Rights Council Special Session
Geneva, December 1, 2008 — UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring group, slammed an African-sponsored resolution on Congo, adopted this afternoon by the UN Human Rights Council, that praises the Kinshasa government -- whose troops stand accused of mass rape, murder and other atrocities -- for its alleged "cooperation" with the UN. The outnumbered European Union withdrew its competing draft, and joined in the consenus adoption of the African text.
Addressing the council's emergency meeting today on Congo, UN Watch urged the 47-nation body to reinstate the independent monitor that it scrapped in March and to dispatch an immediate fact-finding mission to investigate gross human rights violations.
The non-governmental organization also called for an apology.
"Morally, the countries that were behind the elimination of the monitoring mandate in March ought to apologize to the victims of Congo," said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. "We will never know how many lives could have been saved if the Council had not deferred to Congo's government and caused this unconscionable protection gap, which slashed an early warning mechanism just when the victims needed it most."
In March, Egypt on behalf of the African Group supported elimination of the Congo mandate, supported by Russia, Tunisia, Algeria and others.
"Today's resolution is a major disappointment. The toothless text fails to reinstate the UN rights monitor sacked by the council in March, and fails to investigate the mass murder, rape and other war crimes that are making Eastern Congo a living hell," said Neuer. "By granting impunity to war criminals, the credibility of the UN Human Rights Council is now at stake."
After UN Watch today challenged those countries who voted to scrap the mandate in March, council president Martin Uhomoibhi of Nigeria responded that "we have to be forward-looking and not focus on previous things said."
A recent UN report said members of the Congolese army and national police "were responsible for a large number of serious human rights violations ... namely arbitrary executions, rape, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."
UN Watch Oral Statement to DRC Special Session
Delivered Dec. 1, 2008
Thank you, Mr. President.
UN Watch urges immediate action to protect the innocent victims of the Congo.
Civilians are being targeted by rape, looting, murder and other atrocities at the hands of government forces, rebels, and militias. Well over 250,000 civilians have been displaced, with 15,000 refugees sent fleeing to Uganda.
Let us recall that from 1998 to 2003, war in the Congo claimed the lives of 5 million people.
Any resolution adopted by this Council must include the following:
• One: the full reinstatement of the independent expert who was let go by this Council in March;
• Two: the dispatch of a fact-finding mission to investigate the gross human rights violations committed during the recent violence;
• Three: follow-up reports to this Council at all subsequent sessions, until the expert certifies that all violations have ended.
Morality also requires that we look back and ask: Could we have acted differently to save women from rape and children from murder?
In the March 2008 session of this Council, Mr. Titinga Frederic Pacere, the independent expert on human rights in the DRC, reported as follows: “...the lack of security remains worrying, especially in the regions in the east of the country, where militias and armed groups, as well as the Armed Forces of the DRC commit serious human rights violations with impunity.”
Citing examples, the expert gave specific warnings: “The incidence of acts of sexual violence continues to increase at an alarming rate... Pregnant women, persons in detention, minors and even babies are victims of individual or gang rapes, committed, to a worrying extent, by members of the Congolese national police and [the Congolese army].”
The expert urged this Council to “provide all necessary assistance to enable the independent expert to fulfill his complex mandate.”
In response, however, he was let go. The Council eliminated his mandate.
Tunisia spoke of “the positive developments in the human rights situation” in the Congo—indeed, “remarkable progress”—and criticized the expert’s report for not reflecting such “improvements”.
Egypt for the African Group said the DRC had an “environment conducive to the promotion and protection of human rights”; that “the mandate had not offered clear prospects for improving the human rights situation on the ground”; and therefore that “any renewal of the mandate would be counterproductive.” This was supported by Algeria, Russia and others.
We must now ask: If the Council had heeded the reports of the monitor, instead of eliminating this early-warning mechanism, how many lives would have been saved?
And if the resolution before us today fails to reinstate the monitor, or to investigate the latest crimes, how many lives will be lost tomorrow?
Thank you, Mr. President.