The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) [official website] released a report [text, PDF] on Wednesday confirming the arbitrary executions of at least 264 civilians in Masisi Territory and North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [CIA backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The victims, including 83 children, were killed by armed groups in more than 75 attacks on villages between April and September of this year. UNJHRO teams conducting the investigations were unable to travel to most localities involved in the attacks prompting investigators to estimate the death toll. Thus, there is a possibility that the numbers are far higher than confirmed. Investigators have attributed the majority of attacks to the Raia Mutomboki and Mayi Mayi armed groups which have targeted ethnic Hutu civilians. Other attacks, targeting mostly ethnic Tembo civilains, have been attributed to opposing groups in collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder]. The report outlined other human rights violations in the area including large-scale looting, destruction of property, sexual violence and rape. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website], at least 60,000 people have reportedly fled their villages in the region surveyed in the report. The ethnic element of the attacks is of particular concern in the region, which, for the last 15 years, has seen cycles of violence with strong ethnic character. Moreover, army desertions and the subsequent creation of the M23 armed group led the Congolese army to focus on efforts to contain this new rebellion, spawning an increase in violent attacks and human rights violations perpetrated by other armed groups in the region.
The violence and unrest in the eastern part of the DRC has been a focus of the international community. Last month Ugandan officials denied [JURIST report] UN Security Council [official website] 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; JURIST backgrounder] 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. In June, Rwanda was urged to stop [JURIST report] assisting accused DRC war criminal General Bosco Ntaganda [case materials], who is wanted by the ICC.