[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released report [HRW report] on Tuesday detailing numerous war crimes committed by the rebel group 23 March Movement (M23) [JURIST news archive] and Congolese military forces during M23’s occupation of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last year. M23 officially withdrew from Goma on December 1 after the Congolese government agreed to negotiations [Reuters report], which are currently ongoing in Uganda. In its report, HRW documented 24 cases of summary executions, 21 of which were civilians, by M23 fighters during its occupation of Goma. In addition, HRW reported that M23 fighters raped at least 36 women, including 18 wives and a 10-year-old girl, and recruited armies by force in violation of the laws of war. On the other hand, the report also states that while the Congolese army was retreating from Goma it committed at least 76 cases of rape in neighboring towns. Victims who were raped by Congolese military personnel include women as old as 60 and girls as young as 13 years old. HRW called on the UN to investigate and determine which Congolese army units and officers were responsible for these actions. It also called on the UN, which has already imposed sanctions on M23 leaders, to also impose sanctions on Rwanda officials who have supported them.
The eastern region of the DRC has seen considerable violence and human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict since the M23 rebellion began. In December a UN probe found [JUIRIST report] that at least 126 people were raped and at least two civilians were killed during violence in the region last November. A month earlier, the UN condemned M23 [JURIST report] for guerrilla attacks on the DRC and called for an end to all support of the group. HRW also released a report [JURIST report] in September alleging that M23 had been responsible for numerous war crimes, including summary executions, rape and forced recruitments. In June a leaked UN report [JURIST report] revealed that Rwanda had been helping to create and support M23 and similar rebel groups that have been known to violate human rights.