DR of Congo presents frightening picture of human rights abuses UN expert

The Special Rapporteur on the DRC’s human rights, Iulia Motoc, has welcomed the decision of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to make the DRC the first State he investigates.”The idea that appears to be emerging is that the mass violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are international crimes, crimes that may be the result of grave and large-scale violations of the obligation to ensure the protection of all human beings, such as the prohibition of slavery, genocide and apartheid,” Ms. Motoc says.She expresses appreciation for the collegiality and cooperative spirit of the new DRC Government, but adds that 10 requests to the Government for emergency action have received no response.Of the northeast region of the DRC abutting Uganda, she says, “Without effective intervention by the international community, Ituri will be turned into a bloodbath.”The efforts of the UN Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to protect civilians in Ituri have been mostly insufficient and the civilian population is in danger, “hence the increase in the number of people who have fled Ituri,” Ms. Motoc says.”According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, there are between 500,000 and 600,000 displaced persons scattered throughout the region,” the report says. The court in Bunia, Ituri’s capital, was closed in May 2003 because the judges had fled.Of about 400 health centres in the Ituri region, 212 have been closed and 200 schools have been destroyed, it says.Children are still being recruited as combatants, but are demobilized when the militia can no longer feed them. As a result, about 25,000 and 50,000 child refugees, war orphans and “child sorcerers” are roaming the streets, making money in various daytime activities, though they may return to their families at the end of the day. Unsupervised, most drift into vandalism, vagrancy, begging, theft, prostitution and other crimes, she says in her report.The “child sorcerers” are accused of having mystical powers and are abandoned by their families, sometimes because of financial difficulties, the report says. The revivalist churches (eglises de reveil) have often been active in maintaining this belief, which is harmful to children.An 11-year-old boy died in late June after being accused of sorcery and suffering ill treatment and burns on his body. The boy, but not his aggressors, had been detained by the police, she says.