Conflicts & War

M23 rebels responsible for mass graves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo: HRW

Kinshasa, Jun 14 (EFE).- Human Rights Watch said Wednesday the M23 rebel group has been responsible for at least 14 mass graves in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and described these executions as “apparent war crimes.”

HRW has found new evidence that the March 23 Movement (M23), allegedly backed by Rwanda, has killed scores of civilians and captured militiamen in the Kishishe village of Kivu province, between Nov. 2022 and Apr. 2023.

“Congo, the United Nations, and the African Union need to address the mounting evidence that the M23 committed numerous killings in the village of Kishishe,” Clementine de Montjoye, the African region researcher of the HRW, said in a statement.

“There’s an urgent need for the proper gathering of evidence, impartial investigations, and informing families about the fate of their loved ones,” she insisted.

While under control of the M23, at least 171 people were killed over a 10-day period in November in the villages of Kishishe and Bambo, according to an investigation of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO).

A separate investigation by HRW and Amnesty International (AI) also confirmed the execution of around 30 people in the same areas.

HRW used 21 witness accounts, satellite imagery, photographs, and videos to identify at least 14 mass graves in Kishishe. “These appear to be only a fraction of total burial sites,” it said.

The mass graves include bodies of villagers and captured members of the rival militias, who were killed by the M23 rebels before leaving the village in April.

Local residents, some of whom the M23 forced to bury bodies, told HRW that “several houses were burned, including at least one with bodies inside.”

“The Congolese government should seek assistance from the United Nations, African Union, and partner governments to conduct proper exhumations, return remains to families, and hold those responsible to account,” the rights group stressed.

HRW called on the UN Security Council to add M23 leaders, and Rwandan officials, who are assisting the group, to its existing sanctions list.

According to the UN, the M23 rebels have also displaced more than 1.1 million people since March 2022.

Congo accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23 group, something Kigali denies.

In turn, Rwanda accuses the Congolese army of backing the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who have been fighting for gaining power since 2000.

Eastern DR Congo has been witnessing conflict between its army and rebel militias since 1998. EFE


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