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UN rights commissioner calls for restraint in DRC conflict

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday urged participants in the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [official website, in French; BBC profile] to respect human rights and international law [UN News Centre report]. Pillay expressed particular concern about reports of continuous abuses by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], a Ugandan rebel group. After a joint military operation in which Uganda, DRC, and Southern Sudan failed to capture LRA leader Joseph Kony [BBC profile], the LRA allegedly retaliated against the civilian population of northeastern DRC, whom they suspected of supporting the operation. Pillay urged continued caution saying:

I’m also concerned that the joint military counter-operations, unless properly planned and executed, could lead to further human rights abuses being perpetrated against the civilian population who are, in effect, caught between the conflicting parties
The joint military operations were commenced after Kony refused to sign a peace agreement put forward by the Ugandan government, pending the withdrawal of International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] indictments against LRA officials. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website] estimates that the LRA has killed 900 people and caused the displacement of 130,000.

ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced last May the launch of a new investigation [JURIST report] against Kony and other LRA leaders. Moreno-Ocampo maintained that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders remain in effect [JURIST report], despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn. The four ICC-issued warrants were executed in 2005 and include Kony and LRA senior member Vincent Otti [BBC obituary]. In 2007, Otti was executed by rebels [BBC report], though official confirmation of his death was delayed until January amid fears that it would disrupt peace talks. Kony is wanted for orchestrating the killing of thousands of civilians and the enslavement of thousands more children over two decades of conflict. The government has said that Kony is willing to face trial at home [JURIST report], but not at the ICC. A fifth arrest warrant was initially issued for Raska Lukwiya but was later withdrawn after a July 2007 ICC pre-trial chamber decision.

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