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DR Congo’s 40 mass graves: UN may ask ICC to investigate

United Nations (UN) investigators have confirmed the discovery of another 17 mass graves in central DRC, prompting the world body’s top human rights official to raise the prospect of action by the International Criminal Court (ICC), DW reports.

The announcement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein of the discovery of a further 17 mass graves in Kasai Central province in the Democratic Republic of Congo brings the number of such sites recorded by UN investigators to 40.

Fifteen of the newly uncovered graves were in a cemetery in the town of Tshimbulu, while two others were located in the village of Tshienke, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR).

Fighting erupted in the Kasai area last August after DR Congo government troops (FARDC) killed Jean Pierre Mpandi, leader of the Kamwina Nsapu militia, who had launched an uprising against President Joseph Kabila.

The government troops are accused by the UN of using disproportionate force against Kamwina Nsapu, who are armed mostly with clubs and catapults. However, the UN also accuses the militia of recruiting child soldiers and committing atrocities.

The UN says the 17 newly discovered mass graves dug by government troops following fighting with suspected militia members in March in which 74 people, including 30 children were killed.

The UN also said government troops reportedly killed at least 40 people in Kananga, capital of Kasai Central province, while going door-to-door looking for militia members. They reportedly buried an unknown number of bodies there.

The UN itself has also been targeted by the violence.

Its two researchers, an American and Swedish-Chilean woman, who had been sent to the region to investigate it, were found in a grave 16 days after they were abducted last month.

Authorities announced on April 14 that two suspects had been detained over the kidnapping and killing of the two UN staff; an American and Swedish-Chilean woman. However, one of the suspects escaped with the help of four police officers who were guarding them.

It is against this background that Zeid, the UN human right chief, urged the DRC government to “take meaningful steps, which to date have been lacking, to ensure that there is a prompt, transparent and independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of alleged human right violations” in Kasai.

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