It is with horror that we have learned of the recent killings in North Kivu and Ituri. While at least 19 civilians were killed on August 27, 2021 in Beni Territory, at least 30 civilians were massacred with knives and blunt weapons on September 3, 2021 in Irumu Territory in attacks attributed to Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militiamen.
The people of this region live in fear and horror. Their daily lives have been characterized by atrocities that defy imagination and deeply shock the human conscience: large-scale massacres, village burnings, looting, and rapes committed with extreme violence. The number of civilians killed by this armed group has approached 6,000 since 2013, despite the presence of MONUSCO and the Intervention Brigade, which operate in support of the DRC Armed Forces on the basis of Chapter VII of the United Nations, which authorizes all military means necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.
This tragic and scandalous situation is no longer tolerable. Under other skies, the commission of these most serious crimes would mobilize the intervention of international criminal justice, but in an international community where double standards reign, these mass atrocities that plunge our Nation into mourning every day are committed with an indifference that raises our deepest indignation.
Despite the state of siege in the Kivus and Ituri, the security situation does not seem to be improving in these provinces, and the dramatic humanitarian crisis that the civilian population is enduring is turning into a crisis of our humanity.
The situation in this region, which has been affected by armed conflict for decades, is the second most serious humanitarian crisis in the world, when one takes into account the 5.2 million displaced persons in the DRC. In addition, the conflicts that have ravaged our country for the past 25 years have been the deadliest since World War II.
In the face of the failure of political and security solutions, we are convinced that the path to lasting peace will involve the use of all the mechanisms of transitional justice. Indeed, like any people, the Congolese victims of mass atrocities and Congolese society as a whole have the right to truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence of atrocities, in accordance with the recommendations made in the Mapping Report, published almost 11 years ago by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
As world leaders will soon address the annual United Nations General Assembly, we urge the President of the Republic to demonstrate real political will to place the fight against impunity and the use of transitional justice at the heart of MONUSCO’s exit strategy. We invite him to seek the assistance of the United Nations and the adoption of a Security Council resolution to put in place without delay a team of investigators integrated into the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, including experts in forensic anthropology, to exhume the numerous mass graves in the east of the country and to collect and preserve evidence of acts that may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of genocide perpetrated in the DRC.
In addition, the time has come for the Head of State to make concrete his commitment to adopt a holistic national strategy for transitional justice and to expressly ask the United Nations to establish an International Criminal Court for the DRC and to support the establishment of specialized mixed chambers to bring justice to the victims of the most serious crimes and to put an end to the culture of impunity that has fueled the conflicts in our country since the 1990s.
Dr. Denis Mukwege
Nobel Peace Prize 2018