UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed concern [press release] Tuesday for the civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] who are caught in continued fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the 23 March Movement (M23). Pillay stated that M23, advancing through the DRC, has recently committed many human rights violations, including wounding and abducting civilians, looting and destroying property and threatening journalists. Pillay also expressed concern about looting and the destruction of property by the FARDC and urged that all parties take precautions [press release] to protect civilians. The fighting has also harmed humanitarian aid efforts to 60,000 displaced persons in the region. Estimates place the number of DRC refugees in neighboring countries at 463,000 and 2.4 million internally displaced persons in the DRC itself.
The violence and unrest in the eastern part of the DRC has been a focus of the international community. In an emergency meeting on Saturday, the UN Security Council [official website] condemned [JURIST report] a series of guerrilla attacks by M23 rebel group in the DRC. The condemnation followed a recent attack by the group in the eastern region of the DRC as they tried to advance to Goma. Last week, a UN rights body released a report [JURIST report] that confirmed the arbitrary executions of at least 264 civilians. Last month Ugandan officials denied [JURIST report] UN Security Council allegations that Uganda had helped assisting M23 rebels with troops and supplies in the DRC. Similarly in August, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] received requests [JURIST report] to investigate Rwandan President Paul Kagame [official profile] for allegedly backing armed rebels in the DRC. In the same month, the UN Security Council reiterated their condemnation [JURIST report] of M23, demanding foreign entities cease aid to the rebel group.