In a report issued on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that “M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are responsible for widespread war crimes, including summary executions, rapes, and forced recruitment.”
The statement added that 33 of those executed were young men and boys who tried to escape the rebels’ group, while at least 15 civilians in areas under their control were deliberately killed. The fighters, according to the document, also raped at least 46 women and girls.
“The M23 rebels are committing a horrific trail of new atrocities in eastern Congo,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at HRW. “M23 commanders should be held accountable for these crimes, and the Rwandan officials supporting these abusive commanders could face justice for aiding and abetting the crimes.”
Human Rights Watch based its findings on interviews with 190 Congolese and Rwandan victims, family members, witnesses, local authorities, and current or former M23 fighters between May and September.
The M23 armed group consists of soldiers who participated in a mutiny from the Congolese national army in April and May 2012. Rwanda has been accused of supporting the rebels by supplying weapons and ammunition. But Rwandan authorities have denied the allegations.
In August 2012, some member of the Rwandan political parties in exile, together with Congolese civil societies filed an application to the ICC Prosecutor, seeking prosecution of some senior leaders, for allegedly crimes committed in eastern DRC.
Their application was based on a report by the UN in June, accusing some leaders in the Rwandan army of supporting the rebel group.