100+ International NGO's and Human Rights Groups Ask US to Intervene in Escalating DRC Crisis (NEWS)
(Video: Human Rights Watch)
(HN, 5/4/12) -- Fighting has resumed in eastern DRC in recent weeks between Government forces, and dissident groups thought to be led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda; following a contested election in December which resulted in President Joseph Kabila's re-election. Several electoral observation missions, including the Carter Center, questioned the credibility of vote.
Ntaganda recently lead a mutiny in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to authorities; and Ntaganda was previously wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands for recruiting and using child soldiers in northeastern Congo. But since his arrest warrant was unsealed in 2008, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army and by many accounts has continued to recruit children to fight, playing a role in ethnic massacres, killings, rape and torture - as he did during DR Congo's bloody five-year war.
In early April, President Joseph Kabila also called for his arrest, following the defections of up to 500 Congolese troops. Some 20,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, with about 5,000 crossing over into Rwanda says UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency.
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
United States Department of State, 2201 C St, NW, Washington, DC 20520
Dear Madam Secretary:
We, the 142 undersigned Congolese and international civil society and human rights organizations, call on the government of the United States to provide urgent diplomatic leadership and support to the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to arrest Bosco Ntaganda.
Ntaganda's brutal human rights abuses over many years have affected tens of thousands of Congolese citizens in eastern Congo. His position as a high-ranking officer in the Congolese army, together with his ability to continue to perpetrate abuses is the most flagrant case of Congo's destructive culture of impunity.
As you will know, Ntaganda is wanted on an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the war crime of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to actively participate in hostilities in 2002-2003 in Ituri district, northeastern Congo.
Despite the warrant, and the Congolese government's legal obligation to execute it as a state party to the ICC, Ntaganda was made a general in the Congolese army in 2009 and continues to be implicated in other grave violations of human rights, including unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, and the recruitment of child soldiers. Until a few weeks ago, he lived openly in Goma, eastern Congo, without fear of arrest. He was considered by the Congolese government as necessary for the peace process.
Ntaganda's avoidance of arrest is emblematic of continued lawlessness in eastern Congo. The people of eastern Congo have long stood against impunity for the perpetrators of serious human rights violations. Their desire for justice burns strong, especially in the face of ongoing atrocities. Congolese and international human rights organizations have repeatedly denounced Ntaganda's promotion to general, his ongoing crimes, and the failure to arrest him. Congolese human rights activists have done so at great personal risk to themselves and their families.
We have new hope that justice might be done. In April, the situation changed dramatically when Ntaganda unsuccessfully sought to organize large-scale defections from the Congolese army. In the face of the crisis, Congolese President Joseph Kabila, at a public meeting in Goma, signaled a change in the government's stance toward Ntaganda.
He indicated he was considering arresting him and that indiscipline in the army would not be tolerated. Members of the international community, including the United States ambassador to Congo, as well as the Belgian foreign minister, the ambassador of the Netherlands to Congo and others, also publicly called for Ntaganda's arrest and his transfer to the ICC. These statements were very welcome.
We now await concrete action to lawfully arrest Ntaganda in a manner that protects civilians from any potential fallout. Improved security for the population, based on the rule of law, begins with his arrest. It cannot wait any longer. Ntaganda remains at large, has recently separated from the army, and is reportedly at, or near, his ranch in Masisi territory, North Kivu, with a significant group of supporters. The failure to arrest Ntaganda is a source of anxiety and trauma for the population of eastern Congo who fear he could launch a new wave of violence and human rights abuses as he has done in the past. The recent violence in Masisi territory is a strong indication that this is already occurring and that Ntaganda is regrouping troops loyal to him. Lack of action to arrest Ntaganda could result in a further deterioration of the security situation and new attacks on civilians. This must be avoided.
On behalf of Congolese civil society and the thousands of victims of Ntaganda's crimes, we call on the government of the United States to:
: Support the Congolese government to urgently plan and carry out a lawful arrest of Bosco Ntaganda, including providing support through the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, so that he can be brought to justice.
: Press the government of Rwanda, which has backed Ntaganda in the past, to support the lawful arrest of Ntaganda by the Congolese government and not provide him with sanctuary.
: Prioritize comprehensive security sector reform in Congo that includes a vetting mechanism to remove senior officers with a record of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and bring them to justice.
On March 14, our fight against impunity was given an important boost when the judges at the ICC in The Hague found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of war crimes committed in Congo. As Congolese human rights groups publicly said in the weeks that followed, it is now time for Lubanga's co-accused, Bosco Ntaganda, to also face justice.
We recognize the difficulties in bringing about the lawful arrest of Ntaganda, but we believe strongly that with the right political commitment they can be overcome. Please take all necessary and appropriate action to assist the Congolese government to make it happen.
The undersigned organizations
Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations
1. Action Communautaire pour le Développement Intégral et Intégré du Diocèse de Mbuji-Mayi (ACDIM), Kasai Oriental
2. Action des Chrétiens pour la Promotion de la Paix et le Développement (ACPD), North Kivu
3. Action Globale pour la Promotion Sociale et la Paix (AGPSP), North Kivu
4. Action Humanitaire pour le Développement Intégral (AHDI), North Kivu
5. Action Intégré pour le Développement de Ngandajika (AIDN), Kasai Oriental
6. Action Kivu, South Kivu
7. Action Paysanne contre la Faim (APCF), Kasai Oriental
8. Action pour la Paix et la Concorde (APC), South Kivu
9. Action pour la Promotion de la Participation Citoyenne (APPC), North Kivu
10. Action pour la Protection des Droits Humains et du Développement Communautaire (APDHUD), South Kivu
11. Action pour le Développement Communautaire de Lusambo (ADCL), Kasai Oriental
12. Action Sociale pour la Paix et le Développement (ASPD), North Kivu
13. Actions des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (ACAT/NK), North Kivu
14. Actions pour la Promotion Socio-économique des Ménages (APROSEM), North Kivu
15. Africa Justice Peace and Development (AJPD), North Kivu
16. Aide Kivu, South Kivu
17. Amical des Anciens du Séminaire (AMAS), Kasai Oriental
18. Amis de Nelson Mandela, Kinshasa
19. Application des Droits Humains dans le Pays des Grands Lacs (ADHOPGL), North Kivu
20. Arche d'Alliance, North Kivu
21. Assistance Judiciaires aux Vulnérables (AJV), Equateur
22. Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO), national
23. Association Congolaise pour l'Accès à la Justice (ACAJ), Katanga
24. Association des Enfants et Jeunes Travailleurs (AEJT), South Kivu
25. Association des Volontaires du Congo (ASVOCO), North Kivu
26. Association des Volontaires pour le Développement Intégré du Kasaï (AVODIK), Kasai Oriental
27. Association pour le Développement Intégral au Congo (ADI), Orientale
28. Association pour le Développement de Kitamba-Mwenga (ADKI), South Kivu
29. Association pour le Développement des Initiatives Paysannes (ASSODIP), North Kivu
30. Association pour les Nations Unies de la RDC (ANU/RDC), South Kivu
31. Association Régionale de Développement Rural Intégré (ARDERI), Kasai Oriental
32. Bénévolat pour l'Enfance (BENENFANCE), North Kivu
33. Blessed Aid, North Kivu
34. Bons Samaritains des Grands Lacs (BOSAM GL/DDH), North Kivu
35. Bureau de Développement Communautaire (BDC), Kasai Oriental
36. Bureau Diocésain pour le Développement (BDD), Kasai Oriental
37. Campagne pour la Paix (CPP), North Kivu
38. Carrefour pour la Justice, Développement et les Droits Humains (CJDH), North Kivu
39. Caucus des Femmes Congolaises du South Kivu pour la Paix, South Kivu
40. Centre d'Appui et de Réhabilitation des Infrastructures pour le Développement (CARID), Kasai Oriental
41. Centre de Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire (CDH), Katanga
42. Centre de Formation International en Droits Humains et Développement (CFIDH/D), North Kivu
43. Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO), North Kivu
44. Centre de Réhabilitation pour le Développement (CRDS), Kasai Oriental
45. Centre d'Etudes et de Formation Populaires pour les Droits de l'Homme (CEFOP/DH), Kasai Oriental
46. Centre Féminin pour la Formation et l'Information pour le Développement (CEFIDE), Kasai Oriental
47. Centre National d'Assistance aux Invalides du Congo (CNAICO), Kasai Oriental
48. Centre Olame, South Kivu
49. Civis Congo, North Kivu
50. Coalition Congolaise pour la Cour Pénale Internationale (CN-CPI/RDC) , national
51. Coalition Congolaise pour la Justice Transitionnelle (CCJT), national
52. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa (COJESKI/RDC), national
53. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/NK (COJESKI/NK), North Kivu
54. Collectif des Organisations des Jeunes Solidaires du Congo-Kinshasa/SK (COJESKI/SK), South Kivu
55. Comité de Développement de Bilomba (CDB), Kasai Occidental
56. Comité de Suivi pour la Contribution des Communautés et des Églises à la Transformation Humaine (COSCET), Katanga
57. Comité des Observateurs des Droits de l'Homme (CODHO), Kinshasa
58. Congo en Images (CIM), Orientale
59. Congo Peace Network (CPN), North Kivu
60. Conseil Régional des Organisations Non Gouvernementales de Développement (CRONGD/KOR), Kasai Oriental
61. Construisons la Paix et le Développement Intégral (COPADI), North Kivu
62. Coordination de la Société Civile du Nord-Kivu
63. Dauphins Munzirwa-Kataliko, South Kivu
64. Défense et Assistance aux Femmes et Enfants Vulnérables (DAFEVA), North Kivu
65. Département des Femmes et Familles (DFF), Kasai Oriental
66. Diaconie et Développement Communautaire Intégral (DIDECOM), Kasai Oriental
67. Ditekema Esperance (DIES), Kasai Oriental