October 27, 2014 / 10:14 PM / in 4 years

Wrong to expel top rights expert, U.N. envoy tells Congo

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Monday publicly rebuked the Kinshasa government for expelling the top U.N. human rights official, as the Congolese ambassador accused the official of “offensive behavior.”

Scott Campbell, head of the United Nations’ Joint Human Rights Office in Congo, was expelled after the release of a U.N. report that accused the Congolese police of abusing civilians during a crackdown on gangs in the capital Kinshasa.

“It is those who commit human rights violations and go unpunished who tarnish the image of the DRC and weaken its security institutions, not those who make them public,” the U.N. special representative in Congo, Martin Kobler, told the 15-nation Security Council.

“I asked the government to reconsider this decision,” he added. “I express my absolute confidence in the professionalism of Scott Campbell and that of his team. And I stand firmly by the report they produced, for which I take full responsibility.”

Congo’s U.N. envoy, Ignace Gata Mavita wa Lufuta, sharply rebuked Campbell, telling the council that his “offensive behavior” and reporting showed “a systematic refusal of taking into account the comments and clarifications duly documented and provided to him by the relevant government authorities.”

“His ongoing disregard in the face of all criticisms in this regard shook the trust and led the government to decide on a radical solution of separation,” he said, adding that “the DRC does not have a tradition of expelling diplomats.”

Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene Richard Gasana expressed dissatisfaction during the meeting that the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Congo, known as MONUSCO, has not yet taken action against Rwandan rebels in eastern Congo, who are among the remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.

The Rwandan rebels, known as the FDLR, have been ignoring a six-month ultimatum set by regional African leaders to disarm. This has led to increasing pressure on MONUSCO to take action against the group.

Gasana said a special combat unit within MONUSCO established last year to hunt down and neutralize armed groups in eastern Congo has not yet taken the fight to the FDLR.

“Regrettably, the FIB (Force Intervention Brigade) chose to restrict its action on a newly created movement named M23 and once again failed to address the question of the FDLR,” he said.

U.N. experts accused Rwanda of supporting the now defeated M23, an allegation Kigali denied. But other Western governments supported the U.N. experts’ findings and suspended some aid to Kigali as a result.

Kobler noted that there were still two months and six days left before the ultimatum to the FDLR expires. If the FDLR do not disarm before the deadline, MONUSCO will act.

“Taking this fight to the jungle will be long and difficult,” he said. “It will result in many casualties. I for one do not want to see that. But it is up to the FDLR to prevent this scenario.”

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Gunna Dickson

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