UN extends and expands sanctions on Congo

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The UN Security Council (UNSC) has extended and expanded its arms embargo, asset freeze and travel ban on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) until July 1, 2018 as bloody ethnic and religious violence, and reports of the indiscriminate murders of hundreds of civilians, continue to surface.

The expanded sanctions will cover individuals and entities engaging in or providing support for acts that include planning, directing, sponsoring or participating in attacks against the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) peacekeepers or United Nations personnel, including members of the Group of Experts.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2360 (2017) under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Council on Wednesday extended the mandate of the Group of Experts assisting the Sanctions Committee through to August 1, 2018.

The UNSC further decided to extend by two months to August 15 the deadline for the Group’s final report, given the extraordinary circumstances under which it was operating, including the killing of two of its members in the Kasaï region in March.

By the text, the Council requested that the Group of Experts gather, examine and analyse information regarding perpetrators of serious violations of international humanitarian law, and of human rights violations and abuses, including those within the national security forces.

The Council also extended provisions on the supply, sale or transfer of arms and related materiel stating, however, that such measures did not apply to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO or the African Union Regional Task Force.

Strongly condemning all armed groups operating in the region and their violations of humanitarian and human rights laws, the Council demanded that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and others cease all violence immediately.

The UNSC further called on these groups to cease the exploitation of natural resources, for their members to immediately and permanently disband and lay down their arms and liberate, and demobilise all children from their ranks.

Urging the DRC government to continue to fully implement its commitments made in the action plan signed with the UN and for the protection of girls and boys from sexual violence, the Council further called upon Kinshasa to ensure that children were not detained on charges related to association with armed groups.

The renewed sanctions come as the UN reports finding a number of mass graves and the DRC Catholic church reports of hundreds of civilians being massacred

The DRC government was also urged to pursue its action plan commitments to end sexual violence and violations committed by its armed forces.

The importance of Kinshasa to actively seek to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country was also stressed.

The authorities were also called on to continue to enhance stockpile security, accountability and management of arms and ammunition, urgently implement a national weapons marking programme and to address the illegal exploitation and smuggling of natural resources.

The exchange of information between MONUSCO and the Group of Experts was encouraged and MONUSCO was asked to assist the Committee and the Group of Experts, within its capabilities.

The UNSC decided to review the provisions of the resolution by October 31, following submission of its Expert Group’s final report.

France’s François Delattre said the resolution text reiterated the Council’s condemnation of the murders of Expert Group members, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán, and called for an in-depth inquiry.

He emphasised that the experts had been carrying out critical activities, which was the bedrock of the sanctions regime and the Security Council’s work.

The renewed sanctions come as the UN reports finding a number of mass graves and the DRC Catholic church reports of hundreds of civilians being massacred.