ICC prosecutor says violence in Congo could be war crimes

United Nations researchers Zaida Catalan, of Sweden, and Michael Sharp, of the United States, were killed while on assignment in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week. The top prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said recent violence in the country could amount to war crimes. Photo courtesy Human Rights Watch via Twitter

April 1 (UPI) — The top prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said recent atrocities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could amount to war crimes.

Fatou Bensouda, the ICC head, said clashes between tribal militias and government-led forces have led to numerous deaths, including many civilians. This week, two United Nations workers were killed in the Kasai region where most of the fighting has taken place, drawing international outcries to end the violence.

“There have been reports of violent clashes between local militia and Congolese forces, a large number of killings of both civilians and non-civilians, kidnappings and summary executions, including of United Nations experts on mission and their support staff. Such acts could constitute crimes within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” Bensouda said.

She pledged her office would continue investigating the situation and would bring charges at the Hague if warranted.

The DRC has a history of government-led atrocities against minorities, including gang raping women and mass executions. Last week, a tribal militia ambushed and beheaded more than 40 government police officers in retaliation for violence on the part of government forces. Videos online that circulated widely in the country showed government forces killing civilians in the region.

On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres confirmed the deaths of Michael Sharp, an American, and Zaida Catalan, of Sweden, two researchers who were investigating violence in the region. They went missing Monday and their bodies were found in a shallow grave a day later.

Guterres called on the Congolese government to undertake a full investigation into their deaths.


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