Hundreds of abuses under DR Congo 'siege' measure - UN

A child displaced by the conflict stands by the side of the road at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at the entrance to Masisi town, North Kivu province, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on March 22, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

Troops in eastern DR Congo have committed hundreds of abuses since the authorities declared a "state of siege" in the troubled region nearly a year ago, a UN document says.

Government forces are responsible for "at least 231 violations" of rights in one area of the region since the emergency measures were imposed last May 1, the UN Joint Human Right Office in DR Congo (UNJHRO) says.

The violations include "attacks on protected people and places," "abduction, recruitment and use of children," as well as sexual violence and torture, says the document seen by AFP.

They were carried out in the territory of Masisi in North Kivu province over the first nine months of the measure, it said.

The document comprises a diplomatic note called a "note verbale" that was sent to the DRC's ministry of defence.

It was handed over in February, along with a 25-page annex.

Some of the abuses are "violations of international humanitarian law, constituting war crimes," UNJHRO said.

Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has been in the grip of armed groups for more than a quarter of a century, many of them a legacy of two regional wars.

The government in Kinshasa imposed the state of siege in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province in a bid to strengthen a flagging military crackdown on these groups.

Under the measure, senior civilian officials have been replaced by military or police officers.

But violence in the two provinces remains unabated and rights activists fear important safety nets about accountability have been stripped away.

UNJHRO said the abuses were documented in Masisi territory, in North Kivu province, between May 6 last year and February 9, 2022.

It pointed the finger at members of the army's 3410th regiment, which was stationed in the area at the time.

The bureau said it regretted that "no action has been undertaken to stop these violations... and hand over the suspected perpetrators to justice."

Security sources in North Kivu told AFP that the 3410th regiment is currently deployed near the border with Uganda, where the armed forces are fighting M23 rebels.

The region's armed forces spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, told AFP that he was not aware of any accusations against the regiment.

"If necessary, they will respond (to any allegations)... it's not a problem. But at the time being, they are giving priority to carrying out orders from their superiors."

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