DRC rebels dismiss UN rights report

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iol news pic Congo M23 rebels

REUTERS

M23 rebel fighters sit on a truck during press conference in Bunagana in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo January 3, 2013. REUTERS/James Akena

Kinshasa - The rebel force active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has dismissed as “cruelly biased” a UN report that denounced a poor human rights record and led to UN sanctions against the group.

The Movement of March 23 (M23) rebels have been fighting the army since May in the fertile but highly unstable North Kivu province. A UN report published late last year accused the rebels of serious atrocities such as rape, murder and forced recruitment.

The UN experts also accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing M23, an allegation that the neighbouring countries deny.

The political leader of M23, Jean-Marie Runiga, charged that the UN experts harbour a “visceral hatred of M23” in a report released Wednesday.

Runiga said the UN document “seems to us cruelly baised and hardly professional because it contains incompatible and incoherent elements”.

He accused the UN team of seeking to blame M23 on the basis of information that was “not only unfounded, but also unverified”. Runiga urged UN personnel to “come down to the terrain (...) to carry out a real and objective inquiry.”

In the same report, M23 rejected a report by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), which last September accused the rebels of “war crimes committed on a large scale, including summary executions, rapes and forced recruitment”.

The rebel leader claimed that both the UN and the HRW reports were “politicised” and “erroneous” and produced by biased rapporteurs.

The UN Security Council has frozen the assets of several M23

leaders and imposed a travel ban on them, including Runiga and General Sultani Makenga, the movement's military chief.

Runiga urged UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon to “reject purely and simply the requests by the NGO Human Rights Watch and those by the United Nations experts, to reconsider the decisions taken” against M23.

He argued that the United Nations had been manipulated and called on Ban to order a new inquiry in eastern DR Congo, “carried out by people of moral integrity and salubrious intellect”. - Sapa-AFP


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