A new United Nations report shows there has been a recent increase in human rights violations in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, with civilians being mistreated by both government military and rebel forces.
The fighting has forced many Congolese to flee their homes
The situation in DR Congo has deteriorated since August, making the human rights situation "a cause of grave concern" UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the UN Security Council in a new report on the region.
The serious human rights violations include reports of "arbitrary executions, rape, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment," Ban said in the report, which was released Tuesday, Nov. 25.
More than 250,000 people are estimated to have been displaced in DR Congo in the past three months.
The report places most of the blame for abuses on government forces and police. But it also said that foreign armed groups "perpetrated serious human rights abuses with impunity," according to a copy of the report obtained by AFP news agency.
Ban's report listed serious human rights violations
Various groups are involved in fighting in the region, including Laurent Nkunda's National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), the Congolese PARECO resistance fighters, the pro-government Mai-Mai militia, the Rwandan rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebels.
The violations by these groups, Ban said, included "mass killings, torture, abductions, forced recruitment of children, forced displacement and destruction of IDPs (refugee) camps, forced labor, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence."
"By early November, the humanitarian community estimated that nearly 70 percent of the population in North Kivu was either displaced or hosting internally displaced persons," he added.
UN envoy headed to region
North Kivu is the epicenter of fierce fighting between rebel and government forces and their allies. In recent weeks, the CNDP has closed in on the provincial capital of Goma. The past few days had brought relative calm, but that could be changing.
UN troops are trying to enforce a ceasefire
There were reports Wednesday that rebels in eastern DR Congo had violated the fragile ceasefire. Government troops had also reportedly looted a village in the area, according to the UN mission.
The recent fighting had "caused panic among the civilian population, which has been once again forced to flee to find security," the UN said in a statement.
The UN's Human Rights Council plans to hold a session on DR Congo on Friday, following reports of heavy civilian casualties in the fighting. The decision followed a request by France on behalf of European Union countries and others.
The UN is also preparing to send special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, a former Nigerian president, on a peace mission to the area this weekend.