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UN rights chief urges cross-border cooperation in Africa Great Lakes region

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] on Wednesday urged [press release] attendees of the fifth Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) [official website] to "ensure that people suspected of committing international crimes and serious human rights violations do not continue to escape justice by crossing borders." Pillay stated that, for example, Rwanda and Uganda are hosts to members of the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), despite evidence of continued human rights abuses by the M23, including rape, executions and forced recruitment of young boys. Additionally, individuals suspected of participating in the 1994 Rwanda genocide [UN backgrounder] remain in the DRC, in an attempt to escape prosecution and punishment. Pillay called for government leaders in the region to "stop turning a blind eye to the presence of people on their territory who are suspected of committing very serious crimes," and to ensure that there is a measure of accountability for those who have committed international crimes. Pillay further reported that the Special Rapporteur on transitional justice [official profile] has requested invitations for country visits to a number of countries, including the DRC and Rwanda, and stated that "[e]xtending an invitation to the Special Rapporteur would be one step towards living up to the commitment to fight impunity."

Ongoing human rights abuses and conflict in Africa's Great Lakes Region, especially in countries such as the DRC, have continued to bring international focus to the region. The top official for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) [official website], Martin Kobler, in October condemned [JURIST report] a series of attacks perpetrated by the Mayi-Mayi Cheka [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians, including 20 children, in the eastern region of the DRC. In September UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay welcomed [JURIST report] the establishment of a national human rights commission in the DRC, but said that rights abuses continue in the east. Also in September a top UN official emphasized [JURIST report] the need to address the issue of impunity for those involved in human rights violations over the past year. In August UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said that respecting human rights [JURIST report] is essential to achieve stabilization in the DRC. In May the UN reported [JURIST report] that DRC troops committed numerous war crimes, including rape and murder, as they retreated from an advance by the M23 rebels in November of 2012.

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