Armed movements accept idea of criminal tribunal

Armed movements accused of cannibalism in the Ituri District in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have said they favour the government's request to the UN Security Council for the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspected human rights violators.

The groups - the Mouvement de liberation du Congo (MLC) and its ally, the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-National (RCD-N) - have, however, said the period of investigation should be extended to included crimes committed before the Ituri actions. "We say that the international criminal tribunal should look into crimes committed since 1996," Jean-Pierre Bemba, the MLC leader, told IRIN on Monday from the northwestern town of Gbadolite.

He said the two movements wanted the tribunal to investigate what they said was the massacre of some 200,000 Rwandan Hutus in the northeastern city of Kisangani in 1996, in Mbandaka between 1996-97 and Zongo in 1999 (both in the northwest), and in the southeastern towns of Ankoro and Kamina in 2002. Bemba added that there had also been other massacres in the capital, Kinshasa, since 1996.

He said the MLC, which had initiated investigations at the same time as the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, had arrested nine MLC military officers accused of perpetrating human rights violations in Ituri.

The RCD-N leader, Roger Lumbala, said there "would have to be" an international commission of inquiry overseen by a credible international organisation to investigate the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity, looting, rapes and massacres in the DRC".

On 15 January, MONUC published a preliminary report, in which it said the MLC and the RCD-N had committed human rights violations, including cannibalism, in Ituri.