Seven army officials have been arrested and charged [Le Congolais report, in French] with war crimes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [CIA Factbook profile], according to government officials at a press conference on Saturday. The charges stem from a massacre of unarmed civilians in the Kasaï-Central Province in February that was recorded and widely shared [NYT report] on social media. Congolese military auditor general Joseph Ponde Isambwa said that all seven arrested soldiers were members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC. Ponde said the charges against the officers include “war crime by murder, war crime by mutilation, war crimes by cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of an offense committed by persons subject to military jurisdiction.”
The DRC has had ongoing violence for many years which has been a growing concern. In February Human Rights Watch had called on [JURIST report] the DRC to investigate the killings committed in the February 17 video. Earlier in February the UN human rights chief urged [JURIST report] the DRC to end violence against civilians. Also in February the UN human rights office expressed concern [JURIST report] over reports that at least 101 people have been killed by Congolese soldiers. Last October violent protests erupted [JURIST report] in the country after the electoral commission announced that the next presidential election, originally scheduled for November 2016, would be pushed back to 2018. The commission stated that it needed more time to prepare supplies and voter registration lists. In the beginning of 2016 former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to avoid using loopholes and undemocratic constitutional changes to “cling to power” [JURIST report].