Rights group names commanders in Kisangani killings

Top commanders of the pro-Rwandan Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD-Goma) are implicated in the May killings in the city of Kisangani, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and should be punished, Human Rights Watch said in a new report on Tuesday.

"The commanders responsible for these war crimes should be promptly arrested and prosecuted," Suliman Baldo, senior researcher in the Africa Division of Human Rights Watch, said.

Directly implicated in the killings, it said, were Gabriel Amisi, alias "Tango Fort", the RCD-Goma's assistant chief of staff for logistics; the commanders of the Fifth and Seventh brigades based in Goma and Kisangani, Bernard Biamungu and Laurent Nkunda; and other senior officers of both units.

"Biamungu was seen giving commands to soldiers to go to Mangobo soon before civilians began to be killed there, and was personally at the scene of some of the killings," Human Rights Watch said. "Biamungu, Amisi, and Nkunda were all seen at the Tshopo Bridge shortly before summary executions took place there on the night of the 14th."

The rights body questioned whether the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known as MONUC, failed to protect civilians "under imminent threat of physical violence". It said, "The UN Mission had more than a thousand soldiers in Kisangani and were clearly aware of the killings."

The 30-page report is based on a three-week visit the Human Rights Watch research team made to the Congo. It said that Congolese military and police attempted a mutiny against Rwandan elements within RCD-Goma in Kisangani on 14 May, briefly occupying the local radio station and killing several persons believed to be Rwandans.

Although the mutiny soon ended, the rights body said, RCD-Goma flew in the top commanders from Goma who then coordinated "a brutal repression campaign". Human Rights Watch said it documented the killing of dozens of civilians in the Mangobo area of Kisangani in the course of the repression, as well as numerous rapes, beatings, and widespread looting.

In addition, it said, the loyalist RCD-Goma elements executed a large number of detained police and military personnel, many of them at the Tshopo Bridge, and threw their mutilated bodies in the river.

"Many of the bodies later resurfaced," it said. The rights body said it also documented killings at other locations, including an abandoned brewery, the military barracks at Camp Ketele and at the Mangobo airport. The rights body added that a final death toll remained to be determined, but said that at least 80 people, "probably many more", died during the mutiny and the repression that followed.

[Report available on http://www.hrw.org/]