Rebels and pro-government militiamen executed civilians last week in two waves of terror that the top U.N envoy to Congo said Saturday amount to war crimes – ones that highlight the inability of undermanned U.N. peacekeepers to protect civilians.
Meanwhile, Congo’s army advanced toward rebel lines Saturday, with renewed fighting near the provincial capital of Goma threatening a fragile cease-fire. Fighting broke out Friday near Kibati, about six miles north of Goma.
U.N. envoy Alan Doss said “war crimes that we cannot tolerate” were committed at Kiwanja, by rebel leader Laurent Nkunda’s fighters and by Mai Mai militiamen supporting the government.
U.N. investigators on Friday visited 11 graves containing what villagers said were 26 bodies, U.N. spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg said. New York-based Human Rights Watch said the death toll could be higher.
Council quota of 6 angers Christians
Iraqi leaders ratified a bill Saturday giving minorities a quota of seats on provincial governing councils, overriding protests by Christian lawmakers who said they had been cheated.
Christians had demanded that the country’s three-member presidency council, which must ratify legislation passed by parliament, veto the bill.
Lawmakers on Monday approved the quota, which gives Christians and three other minorities a total of six seats split among the governing councils in Baghdad, Nineveh and Basra provinces. The U.N.’s special representative in Iraq had recommended 12 minority seats, a number Christian legislators had supported.
The three provincial councils have a total of 129 members.
In a statement following Saturday’s ratification, the chief of staff for the presidency council, Naseer Ani, said its members had consulted with Vatican representatives and held “extensive discussion” about the bill. They considered the U.N. recommendations but decided to ratify the legislation unchanged out of respect for the parliamentarians’ choice, he said.