October 15th 2010
Honorable Lawrence Cannon
Minister Foreign Affairs and International Trade
125, Sussex Drive
The publication of the UN Mapping Project Report, which documents the most serious violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 1993 and 2003, is an opportunity that must be seized by Canada and other friend countries of the DRC to support putting an end to the impunity that plagues the DR Congo and the entire Great Lakes Region.
We, the undersigned organizations, applaud the professionalism of this investigation, which documented and verified 617 cases of grave human rights violations which claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians in the DR Congo over a ten year span of terror. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (HCHR) also acted with courage in bringing to international attention the atrocities documented at that time by Congolese and international NGOs and by two commissions of inquiry appointed by the United Nations. However, these reports were never followed up with any action.
Minister, the UNHCHR team’s body count and preliminary analysis show these episodes of violence in a new light, demonstrating their systematic and generalized character. Enough elements have been found to qualify the reported facts as violations of humanitarian rights, war crimes or crimes of genocide. In the case of the latter, only a competent court could rule on such cases.
The report also analyzes the sexual violence that has increasingly followed conflicts in their wake until becoming the norm in today’s battle fields, particularly those of in Eastern Congo. At the same time, close links between exploitation by armed groups of natural resources and human rights violations are presented from examples that demonstrate how control of these resources have played and continue to play a key role in the perpetuation of all kind of abuses.
The chapter that has attracted the most attention and reactions documents the systematic massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutu civilians by troops of the Democratic Alliance for the Liberation of Congo (Alliance démocratique de libération du Congo - AFDL) and the Rwandese Patriotic Army. The use of the term genocide in the report is however not new. It was already used in 1997 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Congo after a difficult investigation in the country. The findings of this report were never followed up.
The report of the Mapping Project of human rights violations in the DRC between 1993 and 2003, whose mandate was to establish the truth about the events of this period of terror in the history of the country, is the end product of a mission accomplished. Through its pages, the voices of hundreds of thousands unknown victims speak, in defiance of those who have tried to silence them. The impunity that perpetrators have enjoyed until now has greatly contributed to the perpetration of the worst human rights abuses, particularly in the Eastern part of the country. Suspects in the crimes described in the report can be found today in positions of authority in the armies and governments of countries in the region. Mass rapes of more than 300 persons in Walikale territory last August are the most recent consequence of the reign of impunity in this part of Africa.
Minister, Canada has been present in the region for decades and must now take action consistent with its long term policy of commitment to peace in the DRC. Canada has intervened several times during these years of crisis to facilitate peace negotiations, accompany the transitional government, offer help to victims, and in particular women victims of sexual violence. Furthermore, until now, our country has
coordinated the initiatives of a Group of Friend Countries of the DRC and Special Envoys to the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
This report sets out and describes crimes against humanity which have no precedent other than in conflicts on a global scale. The magnitude of these human rights violations commands a reaction in proportion to their gravity. The implementation of the recommendations to ensure justice and reparations to victims are evidently an essential condition to putting an end to impunity and the reestablishment of peace in the Great Lakes region.
The signatories of this letter request a meeting with you in order to propose a series of specific actions that Canada could take in response to the report of the UN High Commissionner for Human Rights.
Members of the Table de concertation sur la Région des Grands Lacs :
Centre d’étude et de coopération internationale (CECI),
Development and Peace,
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives,
Terre sans Frontières.
Alliance des Jeunes Congolais (Montréal),
Amnistie internationale Canada Francophone;
Amnesty International Canada,
Agir Ensemble pour la Paix au Congo,
Canadian Federation of University Women,
Canadiens pour les droits humains au Congo (CDHC),
Communauté Catholique Congolaise de Montréal,
Congrès Rwandais du Canada,
POWER: Progress & Opportunities for Women's Equality Rights / Africa-Canada,