December 23, 2009 / 2:10 PM / in 9 years

Groups call for UN rights monitor for Congo

GENEVA (Reuters) - Campaign groups from around the world, including many from Africa, have urged the United Nations to restore the post of U.N. rights monitor to the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying the situation there is dire.

Congolese soldiers patrol the town of Rutshuru in eastern Congo, January 28, 2009. REUTERS/Alissa Everett

The Geneva-based U.N. Watch said a total of 50 groupings had signed the appeal to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and human rights chief Navi Pillay.

The appeal, issued late on Tuesday, said signatories were “appalled to learn of the serious violations committed by the Congolese government in recent weeks” which they said included summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and rape.

They said a permanent U.N. monitor should be able to help remedy what they called “the dire situation” in the mineral rich country, where various national, local and outside factions are fighting in the east.

The Congo monitor — formally called a special rapporteur — was abolished by the 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in March 2008 at the request of the Congo government, backed by the developing country majority in the body.

A new report on the situation in the former Zaire by a U.N. Group of Experts is to be discussed by the Security Council in New York, and the appeal signatories said it showed the situation there was “increasingly precarious”.

The group’s report, the appeal said, “describes unchecked impunity and a complete lack of transparency regarding government exploitation of national resources”.

In an earlier report, U.N. monitor on extrajudicial execution Philip Alston said civilians in the east, often the target of rebels, “have also been gang-raped or shot to death by the Congolese army ... which is supposed to protect them”.

On Monday, the international humanitarian group Doctors without Borders put violence against civilians in the east of Congo as number one on its list of the world’s worst 10 humanitarian crises.

The African human rights groups signing the appeal included bodies from Congo itself and its neighbouring Congo Republic, Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, Senegal, Zambia and Burkina Faso. Others included groups in Europe, the United States and Mexico.

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