Warring parties in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo must step up efforts to protect civilians from attacks, Amnesty International urged after a small child and a woman were killed and nearly two dozen wounded amid shelling on Thursday.
The shelling attack hit three areas of the eastern town of Goma on 22 August, resulting in 21 civilians and one soldier being treated for injuries. An eight-year-old child and a woman among the wounded later died. The origin of the attack is not yet known.
“Such loss of life is tragic and a violation of international humanitarian law,” said Lucy Freeman, Deputy Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Shelling must not be directed at densely populated areas, and the hostilities taking place near populated zones are also putting civilian lives at risk. In light of reported attacks by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) on M23 positions, it is essential that the UN forces increase efforts to protect civilians from harm and ensure that any operation against armed groups is conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law at all times.”
Indiscriminate attacks – those which are not or cannot be directed at a specific military objective – launched in civilian-populated zones represent violations of international humanitarian law.
A ballistic analysis will be needed to determine the origin of Thursday’s shelling and the type of delivery system used.
The Rwandan Ministry of Defence reports that one shell fell into a village in Rubavu district in Rwandan territory and accuses the Congolese army of a “provocative act”.
In recent months de facto truces between the army and the M23 have broken down several times as sporadic fighting erupted. Before Thursday’s fighting, the latest clashes took place between 13 and 20 July.