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The widespread impunity in the DRC and the lack of accountability for crimes detailed in the UN Mapping Exercise Report is appalling. Seeking peace, stability and justice in the Congo is not only in the best interest of every nation in the region, but also in line with American democratic values.
The seriousness of the crimes described in the report have been documented previously, by Roberto Garreton (UN Special Rapporteur) Report in 1999 reference E/CN.4/1999/3, among others. The report characterizes these crimes as a “generalised or systematic attack against a civilian population or in many cases both” and raises questions of possible cases of crimes of genocide to be determined by a competent court.
In a statement entitled “We must not forget the victims of the war in Congo” 52 Rabbis state that “[T]he ‘hear nothing, see nothing and do nothing’ approach fails to fulfil the promise to ‘never again!’ stand idly by while human beings are slaughtered. It denies justice to the victims and questions our very commitment to humanity. As rabbis we cannot ignore the call of our tradition: ‘Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroys an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world’”
When the report was leaked to French news paper Le monde, it created a lot controversy and the countries named in it went publicly on the defense. Howard W. French and Jeffery Gettleman in their New York Times article “Dispute Over U.N. Report Evokes Rwandan Déjà Vu” explain this reaction.
After the official release of the report, over 200 Congolese organizations signed a statement in support of the report saying that it is an instrument for accountability, justice, and ending impunity . Early April 2011, after a conference on the mapping report in the North Kivu Provincial capital Goma , 34 Congolese organizations signed a joint statement in support of the creation of the specialized mixed court as recommended by the report. Offering amendments to a draft bill (French versionpart 1 here and part 2) related to the mixed court (soon to be submitted to the Congolese parliament) they underscored, among other things that:
- The specialized mixed court should have jurisdiction over past and present crimes committed in the DRC, contrary to the 1993-2003 dates covered by the report
- Victims and witnesses’ rights must be taken seriously in establishing the specialized court
- The rights of the accused as provided in the draft legislation should be strengthened
It is important for the US to have a supportive position of the UN Mapping Report. A congressional hearing would be a good starting point. It is worth noting that the Obama Administration’s War Crimes Ambassador, Stephen Rapp, was present at the Goma conference of NGOs. In the meantime, the US congress has done a great job by passing two laws related to the DRC, but these laws have yet to be fully implemented:
- Public Law 109-456, Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006”, On March 8 during a hearing on DRC, Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on DRC, called for an immediate appointment of a special envoy to the Great Lakes, which includes Congo, as mandated by this law (Section 107).
- Section 1502 on Conflict Mineral from the Congo is part of Public Law 111-203 known as the “Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act” was passed in 2010.
Finally, in dealing with the crimes committed in DRC, we must consider the policy of all its neighbors particularly Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda toward Congo. Something must be done regarding Rwanda and Uganda, US allies and recipients of US aid and have been engaging in proxy activities that perpetuate and prolong the conflict. US Public Law 109-456, Sec 105 states that aid should withheld to all countries destabilizing the Congo. Some of these activities, proxy wars, illicit mineral trade from Congo, among other things have been documented in UN reports of 2001 S/2001/357, 2005 S/2005/30, S/2008/773, S/2009/253 and S/2009/603.