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Rights groups oppose new DRC amnesty law

The National Network of Congolese Human Rights NGOs on Wednesday a new Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder] law providing amnesty for acts of war committed as far back as 2006. After more than three weeks of debate, lawmakers in the DRC approved the law on Tuesday amid outcry [open letter] from human rights advocates, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. According to HRW, the bill offers impunity for numerous war crimes [HRW report] committed by the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and Congolese military forces during M23's occupation of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2012. M23 officially withdrew from Goma on December 1 after the Congolese government agreed to negotiations [Reuters report], which resulted in the approval of Tuesday's law. President Joseph Kabila [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] is expected to officially approve and sign it soon.

Human rights and humanitarian concerns continue to be a concern surrounding the violence in the DRC. Last September, a top UN official emphasized the need to address the issue of impunity [JURIST report] for those involved in human rights violations over the past year. The month before, UN rights experts emphasized [JURIST report] the importance of respecting human rights in the DRC. In July HRW reported that the M23 was receiving assistance from Rwanda [JURIST report] despite continued human rights abuses by the rebel group, including rape, executions and forced recruitment of young boys. In May a UN report found that DRC troops committed rape and murder [JURIST report] as they retreated from an advance by M23 rebels last November. In February HRW reported that during the siege of Goma, M23 forces summarily executed 24 individuals [JURIST report], 21 of whom were civilians, and raped 36 women, including a 10-year-old girl.

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