UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed concern [press release] on Tuesday about the safety of the civilians in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The armed conflict between the government and the M23 movement, which has been conducting a mutiny in North Kivu Province under the leadership of a particularly notorious group of human rights violators, has placed civilians in the area in heightened danger. It has been reported that the conflict between those two forces has displaced around 218,000 people from their homes since April. The members of M23 have been identified as army deserters and former members of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) and the Coalition of Congolese Patriotic Resistance (PARECO) who have been integrated into the national army after a peace agreement in 2009. Pillay specifically mentioned five M23 leaders describing them as the "worst perpetrators of human rights violations in the DRC, or in the world for that matter." Colonel Sultani Makenga, Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye, Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, Colonel Innocent Kaina and General Bosco Ntaganda [case materials] have been accused of recruiting children, committing massacres and mass rape. Ntaganda was indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] in 2006, and the arrest warrant was announced two years later [JURIST report] on charges of war crimes for recruiting and using children in combat in the DRC's north-eastern district of Ituri in 2002-2003.
DRC has been urged to enforce the arrest warrant issued by the ICC against Ntaganda multiple times. Last month ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] sought the immediate arrest of Ntaganda along with Sylvestre Mudacumura [ICC fact sheet, PDF], a foreign militia leader in the DRC. In April, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called [JURIST report] on Congo President Joseph Kabila to immediately arrest Ntaganda and deliver him to the ICC. Despite the arrest warrant, the president stated that he will consider arresting the general. The human rights group urged the country several times in the past, in July 2011 and October 2010 [JURIST reports].