A U.N.-backed Congolese military operation to oust rebels from eastern Congo has caused more civilian casualties than damage to rebels, with more than 1,400 people deliberately killed over a nine-month period, human rights groups said on Monday. Human Rights Watch said it documented the killings by soldiers and rebels between January and September.
And the group said health centers have registered more than 7,500 cases of sexual attacks on women and girls _ more than twice the number registered during a full-scale war between the government and rebels at the end of 2008. In its report released Monday, the group said that the United Nations must find a new approach to fulfill its primary mandate in Congo of protecting civilians. Human Rights Watch urged the U.N. to immediately end all support to the military operation and called for commanders accused of abuses to be removed from their positions.
A Congolese military operation has been aimed at forcing out Rwandan Hutu militiamen, many of whom sought refuge in neighboring Congo after participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as MONUC, has backed the Congolese army in the region since March. MONUC has said that the U.N. is working hard to protect civilians. But British-based Oxfam said more must be done to protect those living in the region.
"For every rebel combatant disarmed, one civilian has been killed, seven women and girls have been raped, six houses have been burned and destroyed and 900 people have been forced to flee their homes," it said.