Tuesday, July 06, 2004

DRC: group says Pygmies "targeted for extermination"

The following is excerpted from a press release put out by Minority Rights Group International ...
The Bambuti Pygmies in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were targeted for extermination by forces controlled by one of the Congo's current Vice Presidents [Jean-Pierre Bemba], reveal the findings of the first research mission to take detailed testimony from Pygmy villages in the forests of Ituri and Kivu. Attacks against the Pygmies included mass killings, acts of cannibalism, systematic rape and the looting and destruction of villages.

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) today submitted a dossier of evidence to the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The dossier includes shocking video testimony from the victims of crimes carried out since 1st July 2002, the date at which the ICC's jurisdiction over crimes committed in DRC began, and continuing up to the present [...]

[...] The alleged perpetrators of these crimes include the former rebel group RCD-Goma, both before and after its integration into the DRC's armed forces; elements of Rwandan Interahamwe; and combined forces of the MLC/RCD-N who conducted a military campaign in Ituri they called 'Erasing the Board'. The MLC leader is current Congolese Vice-President, Jean-Pierre Bemba.

[...] The testimony demonstrates that atrocities are often committed by those who de-humanize the Bambuti and believe them to have 'powers' which can be acquired through acts of cannibalism and rape. (source)
UPDATE: In January 2003, Monsignor Melchisedec Sikulu Paluku, the bishop of Beni-Butembo in northeastern DRC, accused the MLC and RCD-N of cannibalism. Minority Rights International (MRI) has just collected all the evidence and presented it to the ICC.

UPDATE: Story published July 7, 2004 ...

Response from the MLC to the news that MRI had presented the evidence to the ICC ...
Thomas Luhaka, the executive secretary of MLC and a parliamentarian in the transitional government, said an inquiry into violence in Ituri province has been held.

"Those who were accused of taking part in cannibalism or massacres were transported to Gbadolite where they were judged before a court and the media," he said.

"If there are individuals who committed crimes and are called to appear before the ICC, the MLC will not protect them.

"What we don’t want, however, is for foreign or national actors to use this as a political card against the MLC," he added. (source)