(New York) – Ahead of the start of U.N. negotiations on a global Arms Trade Treaty, Amnesty International said today arms and military equipment from the United States, France, China, Russia and others are contributing to grave human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including killings, rape, looting and abductions. A report published by the organization today calls on political leaders from the supplying countries to immediately halt arms supplies to the DRC.
The report, If You Resist, We'll Shoot You, details how Congolese security forces and armed groups alike are able to commit serious human rights violations because of the ease with which weapons and ammunition are available.
Amnesty International said the situation in DRC demonstrates the urgent need for governments around the world to agree on a comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty when final negotiations take place at the United Nations in July. Amnesty International, in concert with hundreds of other human rights groups, plan massive action in the weeks leading up to U.N. debate including a New York City event in Times Square planned for Wednesday, June 27. For more information, visit: http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/military-police-and-arms/arms-trade
"If we want to stop the killings, the mass rapes and the abductions in the DRC and in other countries, we must begin by stopping the unfettered firepower that fuels these and other human rights abuses,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA. “The DRC is only one example, among many around the world, where the persistent transfer of weapons to security forces and armed groups drives human rights abuses. When it meets on the Arms Trade Treaty next month, the United Nations has the power to end the free pass on conventional weapons that cause the destruction of millions of lives and livelihoods.”
According to Amnesty International’s research, unregulated and irresponsible arms transfers contribute to the deaths of at least 500,000 people on average every year. About 60 percent of the human rights violations documented in a study by the organization involved the use of small arms and light weapons. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States – collectively account for 88 percent of the global arms trade. Trading bananas between countries face more regulations than small weapons.
Amnesty International's new report says the transfers of arms to DRC by the main supplier states — China, Egypt, France, South Africa, Ukraine and the United States — have been allowed in the majority of cases there were examined despite the substantial risk the weapons are likely to be used for serious human rights abuses or war crimes in the DRC.
In recent years, a range of weapons, munitions, and related equipment has been supplied to the DRC’s government, including small arms, ammunition, tear gas, armored vehicles, artillery guns and mortars.
Amnesty International is calling for an Arms Trade Treaty that requires supplying states to undertake a rigorous case-by-case risk assessment of each proposed arms transfer.
Arms transfers to DRC government forces have sustained human rights violations, including mass rape and other acts of sexual violence. Between December 31, 2010 and January 1, 2011, FARDC soldiers attacked the village of Bushani in North Kivu province. The soldiers raped nearly 50 women – aged 16 to 65 – firing gunshots in the air and threatening them with death if they resisted.
Some of the ammunition cartridges subsequently found at the scene were manufactured in China.
Senior DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) officials often sell or give weapons to armed groups, including those they are fighting against. Armed groups also frequently obtain weapons and ammunition left behind when FARDC units flee combat zones.
Following waves of troop defections in May, the FARDC entrusted a colonel with a truck full of ammunition and tens of thousands of dollars for supplies. He then deserted to join a new armed group, taking the weapons and money with him.
In October 2008, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (Congrès national pour la défense du Peuple, CNDP) attacked the town of Kiwanja leaving 150 civilians dead, days after having looted a FARDC military depot in the eastern town of Rumangabo, seizing large quantities of weapons. Troops went from house to house, dragging young men out before stabbing them to death or shooting them in the head or upper chest.
The problem is not only manifest in eastern DRC. Amnesty International along with other organizations also documented serious human rights violations committed by the Congolese security forces, notably the Republican Guard, in the capital, Kinshasa, before and after the Presidential and Legislative elections of November 2011, including unlawful killings, torture and arbitrary arrests.
The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on the DRC in 2003 which was subsequently weakened in 2008. Amnesty International is urging the embargo be strengthened once again.
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.