Arusha, October 10, 2014 (FH) – Perpetrators of M23 rebel crimes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) must be brought to justice, says a UN report released Thursday in Kinshasa.

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Investigations by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC found that serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law were committed between April 2012 and November 2013 when the M23 controlled parts of North Kivu province in the east.

According to the UN Human Rights Office report, some of these crimes may constitute “international crimes” (i.e. genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes).

“I congratulate the Congolese authorities for the judicial procedures already launched against certain members of the M23,” said new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “and I encourage them to continue, so that those responsible for grave violations of human rights and humanitarian law be held judicially accountable for their acts as soon as possible.” He said it was vital that there be justice for the victims, and that the cycle of impunity that was undermining peace in the DRC must be brought to an end.

More than 116 people were victims of violations of the right to life, 351 of violations of the right to physical integrity and 161 of rape, according to the report. But it also says the total number of victims may be “much higher”, in view of the numerous difficulties encountered by the UN human rights investigators.

The UN Secretary General’s Special Representative in the DRC Martin Kobler also stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes must be brought to justice, and reminded people of a new amnesty law in the DRC under which numerous M23 members could be amnestied and return to the country.

“I urge the Congolese authorities to prepare for the return in the best possible conditions of ex-M23 fighters who may benefit from the amnesty law,” he said, “and to apply strictly this law, which says those who have committed serious crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes cannot be amnestied.”

Certain M23 fighters fled to Rwanda and Uganda following their defeat in November 2013,