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Bombshell UN report leaked: 'Crimes of genocide' against Hutus in Congo

The striking conclusion of a new draft UN report is that violence perpetrated by Rwandan President Paul Kagame's and Congolese President Laurent Kabila's forces against Hutus could constitute 'crimes of genocide.'

By Jason StearnsGuest blogger / August 26, 2010

Rwandan troops marched through the village of Pinga in eastern Congo, during a joint Congolese-Rwandan operation to hunt down Hutu extremist rebels in February of 2009.

Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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Over a year after its completion, the UN mapping report has finally been leaked to the press. The report was mandated by the UN to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Congo between 1993 and 2003 in the hope that there could be accountability for the violence. To date, almost nothing has been done to bring those responsible to justice.

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The report is huge, spanning 545 pages, and deals with war crimes committed by the security forces of Angola, Mobutu's Zaire, Uganda, Chad, Laurent Kabila's government, Joseph Kabila's government, Zimbabwe, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe (and later the FDLR), the Mai-Mai and the many other rebel groups. I will speak at length about the massacres carried out by these forces in later postings. Here, I will speak about the most controversial claim: the massacres carried out by the Rwandan army (RPA) together with the AFDL rebellion (led by Laurent Kabila) against the Hutu refugees in 1996-1997.

The striking conclusion is that the crimes committed by the RPA/AFDL against Hutu refugee and Congolese Hutu could constitute a crime of genocide. This will be a bombshell for Paul Kagame's government, which prides itself of having brought an end to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and have built their reputation and their appeal to donors on their promotion of post-genocide reconciliation. This report will rock the internet for months and years to come, its political improtance is hard to overstate.

A few words of caution. The report was not based on the same high standards of a judicial investigation, it was intended to provide a broad mapping of he most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003.

Indeed, the report says that an international court will have to be the final arbiter whether the RPA/AFDL did commit acts of genocide. Verbatim: "The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report, which targeted very large numbers of Rwandan Hutu refugees and members of the Hutu civilian population, resulting in their death, reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide."

Nonetheless, it was their mandate to documents crimes of genocide, and they were rigorous: In total, the team gathered evidence on 600 incidents of violence (not just on the genocide allegations). Their standard was two independent sources for each incident. They interviewed 1,280 witnesses and gathered 1,500 documents. Many of the reports of killings of Congolese and Rwandan Hutu civilians were corroborated by eyewitnesses. While we always knew that there had been large massacres of Hutu refugees in the Congo, this is the first rigorous investigation, and the first time an international body has thrown its weight behind charges of genocide.

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