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Mass graves’ discovery in DR Congo horrific – UN rights chief

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Al Hussein, has raised an alarm over the discovery of more mass graves in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Zeid said that the scale and nature of the allegations could warrant an investigation by an international mechanism, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said between April 5 to April 7, a team of UN human rights and police officials found 17 further mass graves in the Kasai Central province.

The rights chief said “the discovery of yet more mass graves and reports of continued violations and abuses highlight the horror that has been unfolding in the Kasais over the last nine months.

“Should there be no effective national investigation, I will not hesitate to urge the international community to support an investigation by an international mechanism, including the ICC.”

Zeid highlighted the need to monitor the situation closely, stressing that “information by UN investigators shows that soldiers from the Forces Armées de la Republique Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) reportedly dug the graves after clashing with presumed elements of the Kamuina Nsapu between March 26 to March 28.

“At least 74 people, including 30 children, were reported to have been killed by soldiers as a result of clashes.

“The militia, loyal to a local customary chief who was killed in August last year, has been accused of a number of crimes and human rights abuses.

“This includes killings and abduction, recruitment of children, and targeting schools, hospitals and churches.

“It is absolutely vital that the Government takes meaningful steps, which to date have been lacking, to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent, and independent investigation.”

He stressed the need to establish facts and circumstances of alleged human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties.

The UN team also visited Kananga, a town in Kasai Central, where between March 28 to 30, FARDC soldiers were reported to have shot dead at least 40 people, he said.

According to him, these include 11 children and 12 women, in the town’s Nganza commune, and injured at least 21 others.

The UN investigators were also informed of the killing of three individuals, including a 17-year-old boy and a one-month-old baby during search operations by the Police Nationale Congolaise, Zeid said.

The High Commissioner offered his Office’s assistance in conducting a credible investigation into the reports and allegations but underscored that it must be provided with unfettered access.

“We reiterate our request for access to all sites of mass graves, as well as to all witnesses, including those in detention, and other relevant information necessary to determine responsibility at all levels,” he added.

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