October 1, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum today reacted to a new report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The report outlines the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the DRC between 1993 and 2003 and offers a range of transitional justice options to deal with the legacy of these crimes.
“The scale, scope and detail of the crimes are too serious to be ignored,” said Michael Abramowitz, Director of the Committee on Conscience, the Museum’s genocide prevention program. “This report offers a shocking picture of violence directed against civilians in the Congo by multiple perpetrators over more than a decade. The allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law should be treated with utmost gravity in the interests of truth-telling, combating impunity, and achieving justice for victims.”
The report published today analyses four major periods of violence in the DRC: the waning years of the Mobutu Sese Seko regime (1993 - 1996), the war to overthrow Mobutu (1996 - 1998), the second war (1998 - 2001), and the period of transition (2001 - 2003). It also documents violence against women and children and the impact of resource exploitation on the conflict.
The report charges that attacks carried out in 1996 and 1997 by the Rwandan army and their rebel allies against Hutu civilians in the DRC may constitute genocide, ultimately deferring judgment on this question to a competent legal tribunal. It also documents crimes allegedly committed by the later-deposed Zairean government of Mobutu Sese Seko, other national militaries and militias, including Ugandan, Burundian, and Congolese rebels. The report provides guidance for the Congolese and international authorities on how to prosecute perpetrators and address victims’ rights.
“Nothing in this report or these charges diminishes the facts of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where at least 500,000 Rwandan Tutsi were murdered by a Hutu-extremist government in only three months,” said Abramowitz. “If anything, the report underscores the long-lasting, regional consequences of genocide and the importance of prevention efforts.”
The Museum actively monitors the region. In April 2004, the Museum joined the U.S. government delegation to ceremonies commemorating the 10th Anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. In November 2007, Museum director Sara Bloomfield led the first of several Museum witnessing trips to Rwanda and the DRC. The Museum produced a short film, Defying Genocide, about rescuers in Rwanda and created an interactive online journal documenting actress Angelina Jolie’s and analyst John Prendergast’s trip to the DRC. The Museum’s interactive installation, From Memory To Action: Meeting the Challenge of Genocide, introduces its annual 1.7 million visitors to the Rwandan genocide and its legacy in the Congo, in addition to other cases of contemporary genocide.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide and promote human dignity. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanent place on the National Mall, and its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.