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Congo army commander hit with UN sanctions

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 1 Dec 2010 22:55 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Commander accused of ordering massacres, rapes in east

* Three Rwandan Hutu rebel leaders also hit with sanctions

By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 1 (Reuters) - A U.N. Security Council committee on Wednesday blacklisted a commander in the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for ordering massacres and rapes of women and children in the country's violent east.

In addition to Lieutenant Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, a former rebel incorporated into the army as part of a peace deal, the Security Council's Congo sanctions committee also blacklisted three members of a Rwandan Hutu rebel group, the United States, Britain and France said in a joint statement.

The four will face an international travel ban and all their financial assets will be frozen.

Zimurinda is accused of giving "orders that resulted in the massacre of over 100 Rwandan refugees, mostly women and children, during an April 2009 military operation in the Shalio area," the statement said.

In March, Human Rights Watch and 50 Congolese human rights groups lodged a formal complaint against Zimurinda, a senior officer in the conflict-riddled east of the central African country, requesting his suspension.

The activist groups said that Zimurinda had overseen or participated in massacres, summary executions, rape, recruitment of children and forced labor.

In addition to the massacre of Rwandan Hutu refugees, they accused him of commanding troops who raped women and girls and shot members of their families in 2009 and 2010.

U.N. special envoy on children and armed conflict Margot Wallstrom said in May that Zimurinda had recruited children and had been involved in arbitrary executions of child soldiers.

The senior members of the FDLR Rwandan Hutu rebel group added to the sanctions list are Brigadier General Gaston Iyamuremye, Lieutenant Colonel Felicien Nsanzubukire and Brigadier General Leodomir Mugaragu. All were said to have committed actions undermining the stability of Congo.

Prior to Wednesday's decision, the committee's blacklist contained the names of 20 individuals and six organizations accused of violating a U.N. arms embargo, recruiting child soldiers and other breaches of Security Council resolutions.

The government of Congo has been struggling to regain control over the country since a 1998-2003 war and accompanying humanitarian disaster that killed 5.4 million people.

Its army has been accused of human rights abuses during a U.N.-backed operations against the FDLR rebel group. (Editing by Patrick Worsnip and Stacey Joyce)

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