March 19, 2015 / 10:09 PM / in 3 years

U.N. peacekeepers previously supported blacklisted Congo generals

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. peacekeepers previously worked with two Democratic Republic of Congo generals accused of abuses, but have refused to support the men in a new campaign against Rwandan rebels because Congolese authorities did not investigate the allegations, said a U.N. envoy on Thursday.

Under the United Nations human rights due diligence policy, the world body has to ensure its support to non-U.N. security forces does not contribute to grave human rights violations.

U.N. peacekeepers and the Congolese army (FARDC) jointly planned a military campaign to take on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels, which includes former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, after it failed to meet a January deadline to disarm.

However the U.N. mission, known as MONUSCO, withdrew its support for the planned offensive after Congo appointed the two generals at the last moment who are on the U.N. mission’s red list, which signifies allegations of human rights abuses.

Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission, said that peacekeepers had previously supported one general during a 2010 operation against the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group and the other general last year against the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Force, another insurgent group.

Kobler said MONUSCO had granted waivers “in a too generous way” to allow peacekeepers to previously support the generals despite what he called “a credible history of human rights violations.”

“We were giving the waivers in former incarnations because we thought the government was now taking punitive actions and giving the cases to the military prosecutor. This was not done in several cases,” he told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council. “This is a fight against impunity.”

Congolese troops launched their own operation against the FDLR last month and Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda told the Security Council that several areas had already been cleared.

He said more than 200 combatants - 91 of which were child soldiers - had already been captured or surrendered.

“The remainder of rebel troops are now going into the deep forest, moving therefore away from the Rwandan border where it was believed they were creating insecurity for our neighbor,” Tshibanda said.

The FDLR, made up of an estimated 1,400 fighters, has been at the heart of years of conflict in Central Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Kobler said he was confident the government would take appropriate action to remedy the situation with the tarnished generals. “The more we support, the quicker the operations will have success,” he said.

He said since 2012 the U.N. mission had screened 2,592 people under the human rights due diligence policy and 118 officers had been classified red. “These 118 are the problem and here we cannot cooperate,” Kobler said.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Christian Plumb

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