Statement by Dr. Mukwege Following the Discovery of 4 New Mass Graves in Ituri

January 21, 2023 ­­– As new mass killings allegedly attributed to the armed group Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) took place in mid-January in Ituri Province, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the civilian population is living in insecurity and fear, despite the establishment of a state of siege for more than 20 months. 

The recent discovery of four mass graves in which nearly fifty people were buried in the Djugu Territory, in areas near Lake Albert, has once again brought grief to the Congolese nation. The bodies of civilians found in three mass graves in Nyamamba and in the Mbogi pit, including women and children, add to the already tragic human toll of conflicts linked to the activism of armed groups in the region.

According to the United Nations, at least 195 civilians have been killed since December 2022 by CODECO and Zaire armed groups operating in Djugu and Mahagi Territories. This deterioration in the security situation is worsening the already alarming humanitarian crisis in Ituri province, where the number of displaced persons has risen to more than 1.5 million.

The Congolese authorities, who have an obligation to protect the population, are called upon to conduct an investigation to shed light on this carnage, establish responsibility, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

We also urge the United Nations to significantly strengthen the team of forensic experts mandated by the Human Rights Council to help exhume the most recent mass graves as well as those related to past crimes committed in eastern Congo.

In addition, we call on the Congolese state to officially invite the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), based in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and active in Iraq and Ukraine, to carry out a mission to the DRC in order to benefit from its technical assistance and to support the establishment of a Congolese forensic office.

These steps are essential prerequisites for the genesis of transitional justice in the DRC and for the respect of the rights of the families of missing persons to obtain truth, justice, and reparations.

Denis Mukwege

Nobel Peace Prize 2018

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