Obama Administration Must Step Up Influence, Especially at United Nations, to Protect Lives in Danger in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Press Release
November 26, 2012

Obama Administration Must Step Up Influence, Especially at United Nations, to Protect Lives in Danger in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150, @strimel

(New York) – With tens of thousands of people at risk from renewed fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amnesty International USA today called on the Obama administration to step up its influence at the United Nations and directly with the Congolese government to help protect civilians and to supply needed food, water, medicine and shelter.

Amnesty International, in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said it is deeply concerned about the safety of civilians in Goma and Sake due to the renewed outbreak of violence and the appalling record of past human rights abuses by the armed group M23, which has been responsible for unlawful killings, forced labor and rape and the recruitment of children as soldiers.

Although U.N. peacekeepers are stationed in both Goma and Sake with the task of protecting the safety of civilians, it is not clear that they have the resources to do their job. Amnesty International said reports of abductions, sexual violence and summary executions in the area raise renewed concerns about the catastrophic consequences for civilians.

“The U.S. government and the U.N. Security Council need to exert their influence to make sure the MONUSCO peacekeeping force has the backbone and the capacity it needs to protect civilians," said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

In addition, Amnesty International called on the United States to recommend that the U.N. Security Council add high ranking officials within the Rwandan Ministry of Defense to the list of designated individuals to be subject to sanctions for their support of armed groups in the DRC.

Amnesty International’s own research shows that Rwanda provided recruits and weapons to M23 in July and August in violation of the U.N. arms embargo.

“Sanctioning Rwandan military leaders could discourage Rwanda from supporting M23 and help prevent M23’s ability to commit serious human rights abuses,” said Nossel. "The United States needs to use the weight of its influence to make clear to the government of Rwanda that any continued role in supporting M23 and its abuses is unacceptable.”

The United States should also support a Security Council resolution that would require Rwanda to withdraw its support from the M23 armed group, said Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.