Clashes between heavily-armed groups and government forces in the North Kivu region of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have forced nearly 300,000 people to flee. Millions have died in the past ten years.
Despite a UN arms embargo that has been in place for years, armed groups have been able to get hold of weapons, ammunition, military equipment and other supplies. This has allowed them to commit war crimes and widespread human rights abuses against civilians.
The Congolese army has also been responsible for numerous human rights violations. Around one in four of North Kivu's population is now displaced.
Amnesty International, jointly with dozens of other organizations, called on the United Nations to strengthen its arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In an Open Letter to the UN Security Council, which is meeting today to discuss the embargo terms, the groups say that daily abuses against civilians, including widespread killings, rape and other serious human rights violations continue to be committed in the DRC because of the proliferation of weapons and ammunitions.
The Open Letter describes the lack of any procedure for MONUC, the UN's peacekeeping force, to ensure that military equipment is properly safeguarded, distributed, stored and used by named units of the DRC armed forces when arms enter the DRC.
The Open Letter calls on the Council to extend the arms embargo to the whole of the DRC, with limited exceptions, or at least to implement five specific recommendations, focusing on how military material must be better tracked under MONUC supervision to prevent it being diverted.
The organizations called on the UN Security Council to encourage urgent steps by the international community to help address the DRC government’s lack of progress towards professionalizing its security forces and securing its arms stocks.
The Open Letter concludes by urging UN member states to not only rely on arms embargoes but to cooperate towards the early establishment of a global Arms Trade Treaty with the principles of the UN Charter and international human rights law at its heart. The United Nations General Assembly is set to vote on moving forward on an Arms Trade Treaty next week.
Democratic Republic of Congo: Open Letter to the United Nations Security Council on strengthening the arms embargo on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) People of DRC need action, not words (News, 2 December 2008)
The signatories of the Open Letter are:
Africa Peace Forum [Kenya] ; Albert Schweitzer Institute [USA]; Amnesty International sections in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Portugal, Senegal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Togo, the UK and the USA; Arche d'Alliance [DRC]; Asociación para Políticas Públicas (APP) [Argentina]; Ass. Onlus Magic Amor. [Italy]; Association Pour Les Victimes De La Repression En Afrique [DRC]; Australian National Coalition for Gun Control; AVEVENA [DRC]; Awaz Foundation Pakistan: Centre for Development Services [Pakistan]; Bahrain center for human rights [Baharin]; Beati i Costruttori di pace [Italy]; Broederlijk Delen [Belgium]; Bangladesh Development Partnership Centre (BDPC) [Bangladesh]; Cameroon Youths and Students Forum for Peace and the African Youth Forum for Peace [Cameroon]; Ceasefire [South Africa]; Center for Evironment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) [Nigeria]; Center for Peace Education [Philippines]; Centre for Conflict Management and Women Development Affairs (CECOWDA) [Malawi]; Centre for Justice and Reconciliation [The Netherlands]; Centre Women and Modern World [Azerbaijan]; ChangeMaker - Society for Social and Economic Development [Bangladesh]; CHRR [Malawi]; Civil Organization Promoting Peace in Youth (COPPY) [Antigua and Barbuda]; Col.lectiu d’Educació en drets humans i de Prevenció Activa de Conflictes (CEPAC); Collectif des associations de lutte contre la torture - CALCOT [DRC]; Commission on Peace and Justice [Haiti]; Council of Churches [Sierra Leone]; Diakonia [Sweden]; East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (EHAHRDN) - Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda; Global Witness [UK]; HEWAD, Reconstruction, Health and Humanitarian Assistance Committee [Afghanistan]; Human Rights Institute of South Africa; Human Rights Network [Nigeria]; IANSA - International Action Network on Small Arms [UK]; Indian Institute for Peace, Disarmament & Environmental Protection [India]; Institute for Security Studies [Kenya]; Institute of Human Rights Communication, Nepal (IHRICON) [Nepal]; Instituto Sou da Paz [Brazil]; International Alliance of Women (IAW) ; International Childcare Trust [UK]; International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR)/ Mouvement International de la Réconciliation (MIR) [The Netherlands]; Journalists for children and women rights and protection of environment in Macedonia; Latifa Gono Sohay Angan (LGSA) [Bangladesh]; Le Réseau Action Femme [DRC] ; Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons [Liberia]; Ligue Burundaise des Droits de l'Homme (ITEKA) [Burundi]; Ligue des Droits de l'Homme de la Region du Grand Lac [DRC, Burundi, Rwanda]; Ligue International pour les Droits de l'Enfant (LIDE) [Togo]; L'Observatoire des transferts d'armement [France]; Medical Association for Prevention of War [Australia]; Network Women in the Rural Population [Haiti]; Norwich & District Branch of the United Nations Association. [UK]; Norwich Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom [UK]; OFAT [Haiti]; Organisation de femmes pour l’avancement de la commune de Thomonde [Haiti]; Pacific Concerns Resource Centre [Fiji]; Patron of All India Women,s Conference New Delhi [India]; Pax Christi International; Pax Christi Vlaanderen [ Belgium]; Peace Boat USA; Peace Direct [UK]; Peace Union of Finland; Project Ploughshares [Canada]; Réseau des associations de protection des droits de l'enfant (RAPDE) [DRC]; Réseau des défenseurs des droits humains en Afrique centrale (REDHAC) [Gabon, DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, Chad, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Central-African Republic]; Réseau Ouest Africain des Défenseurs des droits de l’homme (ROADH) [Benin, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo]; Rete Italiana per il disarmo [Italy]; S.E.A organisation [DRC]; Saferworld [UK]; Save Africa on Environment by Empowerment [Nigeria]; Secours Catholique/Caritas France; Secretary Forum of Mauritian Journalists [Mauritius]; Securitas Congo [DRC]; Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms (SLANSA); SOFEPADI-RDC [DRC]; Solidarité pour la Promotion des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples (PRODOP) [Cameron]; South Asia Partnership (SAP) [Nepal]; South Asian Civil Society Net Work Against Small Arms (SASANET) [Sri Lanka]; Southern Sudan Action Network on Small Arms [Sudan]; Stand Up For Peace [DRC]; Tanzania Human Rights Foundation (TAHURA); TransArms-Europe ; Vlaams Netwerk Lichte Wapens [Belgium]; WAANSA West African Action Network on Small Arms; Widows for Peace through Democracy [UK]; Women in Alternative Action [Cameroon]; Women of Africa [UK]; Women in Black – Belgrade [Serbia]; Women of vision association; Women of Vision Association [Nigeria]; Women's League of Burma.