Date: Sat, 21 Dec 96 00:29:18 CST
Subject: ZAIRE: SOURCE OF REFUGEE CRISIS REMAINS HIDDEN FROM SCRUTINY
This News Service is posted by theInternational Secretariat
of Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 8DJ
Source of Refugee Crisis Remains Hidden from Scrutiny
Amnesty International News Service 243/96. AI Index: AFR 62/30/96, 19 December 1996
Amnesty International today released new evidence that "campaigns of terror" were being waged by Zairian military forces, militias and rebel forces against refugees and civilians in the South-Kivu region of Zaire at the very time that the international spotlight was focused on the massive stream of refugees further north heading back to Rwanda last month.
"This face of the Zaire tragedy has so far been hidden from international scrutiny -- and with this area still cut off from the outside world there are real fears that the attacks and killings are continuing today," Amnesty International said.
In a new report, the organization says that some 40,000 people fled for their lives to Tanzania and many others fled further southwards into Zaire in the space of a few weeks in October and November to escape horrific abuses at the hands of rebel forces in eastern Zaire.
The report is based on findings from an Amnesty International investigation team visit to Tanzania earlier this month which talked to refugees from South Kivu. The evidence shows that there has been a systematic and deliberate policy of armed attacks and indiscriminate killings to flush out civilians in refugee camps there, as well as deliberate and arbitrary killings of civilians in Zairian towns and villages.
Amnesty International is extremely concerned that the Zairian regions, including South Kivu, now held by the armed group, the L"alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL), the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire, have remained hidden to international scrutiny for almost two months now.
The organization is appealing to the Zairian government and the AFDL to stop human rights abuses and to allow full access for human rights activists and others investigating allegations of human rights abuses in eastern Zaire. Amongst the abuses reported to the organization"s delegation were:
The latest cycle of violence began in mid 1996 following the Kinshasa government"s proposal to remove Zairian citizenship from the Tutsi population in Eastern Zaire. Following this announcement, local government officials instigated a campaign of intimidation against the Banyamulenge population with mass killings, armed attacks and forcible expulsions.
In early October, armed AFDEL forces were systematically attacking Zairian villages, towns and refugee camps, forcing their inhabitants to flee further South.
"What is clear is that both sides deliberately and indiscriminately targeted civilians in South Kivu," Amnesty International said. "Now the AFDL control South Kivu there are only allowing restricted access to investigate what happened or to monitor what is going on at the moment."
Amnesty International is calling on all parties to the conflict to commit themselves publicly to abiding by the principles of international humanitarian law, and on states who have influence with the AFDL to make every effort to ensure that the AFDL abides by these principles.
It is also urging the Zairian authorities and the AFDL to stop the forcible return of refugees to Burundi or Rwanda. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should mount an independent investigation into attacks on the refugee camps under its protection and to denounce publicly any human rights violations.
"At the moment we are witnessing a continuous series of refugee crises in the Great Lakes region, with the international organizations at best struggling to cope with the results and at worst being prepared to overlook the fundamental human rights safeguards behind the refugee flows. Unless there is a serious attempt to solve the real issues behind this situation, the prospect for stability in Central Africa looks bleak," Amnesty International said.
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