HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
CONCERNED AT KILWA MILITARY TRIAL IN
THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF
|Geneva, 4 July 2007- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today expressed concern at the verdict reached in late June by the Military Court in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to acquit all defendants, both military and civilian, in the Kilwa trial. She also condemned the use of a military court to try civilians.|
“I am concerned at the court’s conclusions that the events in Kilwa were the accidental results of fighting, despite the presence at the trial of substantial eye-witness testimony and material evidence pointing to the commission of serious and deliberate human rights violations”, said the High Commissioner. "I am pleased that an appellate instance will have the opportunity to revisit these findings. I urge the appeal court to fully and fairly weigh all the evidence before it reaches the appropriate conclusions that justice and the rights of the victims demand." The High Commissioner also encouraged all competent authorities in the DRC to use all available legal means to bring justice to the victims of Kilwa.
In 2004, members of the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) regained control of the town of Kilwa from a rebel group which had briefly occupied it. In investigating the events, MONUC’s human rights officers documented incidents of summary executions, torture, illegal detention and looting by the FARDC forces and concluded that little and sporadic fighting took place. Human rights NGOs have also investigated the events and reached similar conclusions.
The High Commissioner criticized the military court's assumption of jurisdiction over civilians in this case. "It is inappropriate and contrary to the DRC's international obligations for military courts to try civilians. While military personnel can in principle be charged by court martial, civilians may not - they should be tried before fair and independent civilian courts."
The High Commissioner called on the Congolese Parliament to adopt as a matter of priority the bill implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which would provide the civilian courts with clear jurisdiction for international crimes. “During my visit to the DRC in May this year, all authorities assured me of their highest commitment to the fight against impunity. The victims of serious human rights violations demand concrete signs of such commitment, in the form of truth and justice. That is only their right”, the High Commissioner concluded.