UN denounces DRC tribunal's decision in Kasai trial

Kinshasa - The UN on Monday criticised a decision by a Congolese military tribunal not to prosecute seven Democratic Republic of Congo soldiers for crimes against humanity.

"We regret" the tribunal's decision, Jose Maria Aranaz, director of the United Nations joint human rights office (UNJHRO) and representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC, told AFP.

"Prosecuting these crimes is a way of preventing other legal violations and further excessive use of force by the armed forces," Aranaz said.

The seven soldiers were already on trial for war crimes and other offences - including murder, mutilation and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment - apparently committed in the Kasai region.

They are being prosecuted over a video that emerged in February showing a group of uniformed men opening fire on civilians, then walking among at least 20 bodies.

The alleged incident occurred during an operation in a village called Mwanza Lomba in Kasai, according to the government.

On Saturday, prosecutors in the trial, which began on June 5, dropped the war crimes charges, but kept the murder charge and others.

"You can justify dropping the war crimes charges because there is no declared conflict in the Kasai," Aranaz said.

But it would have been important to prosecute the officers for crimes against humanity because it would send "a strong signal in the direction of those who are implicated in the violence in Kasai".

The central Kasai region has seen an explosion of deadly violence in recent months, with reports of gross rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and the use of child soldiers.

More than 3 300 people have been killed in eight months of spiralling unrest, a papal envoy to the country said last week, and UN figures show that 1.3 million people have fled their homes.

The UNJHRO believes "officers should guarantee the proportional use of force by military and police elements under their command" and dismiss all efforts to try to put these acts onto "isolated members in the army," Aranaz said.

The unrest in Kasai began when a local tribal chieftain, known as the Kamwina Nsapu, who was rebelling against the authority of President Joseph Kabila's government, was killed during clashes with the security forces in August 2016.

On Saturday, the UN urged Congolese authorities to pare back their military presence in the region "to prioritise dialogue".

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 432 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
82% - 5378 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
11% - 726 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.02
+0.3%
Rand - Pound
20.17
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.67
+0.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.61
-0.3%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.6%
Gold
1,662.76
+0.1%
Silver
19.40
+1.9%
Palladium
2,188.00
+1.0%
Platinum
867.00
+0.3%
Brent Crude
85.14
-2.4%
Top 40
57,264
-0.2%
All Share
63,612
-0.2%
Resource 10
60,147
-0.1%
Industrial 25
77,106
-0.4%
Financial 15
13,797
+0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE