The group says that M23’s killings and rapes in eastern DR Congo are bolstered by the military support of Rwandan officials.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has published a damning report accusing the M23 militia of committing murder, rape and “other war crimes” in the volatile east the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months.
In the report released on Tuesday, HRW said it had so far “documented eight unlawful killings and 14 cases of rape” by M23 fighters.
The group – whose members are predominantly ethnic Tutsis from Rwanda – has captured swathes of territory in DRC’s North Kivu province since taking up arms in late 2021 after years of dormancy, with over a million people displaced by the fighting.
The DRC accuses Rwanda of backing the M23. Independent United Nations experts and several Western nations, including the United States, agree with Kinshasa. But Kigali continues to deny the claims.
“The United Nations Security Council should add M23 leaders, as well as Rwandan officials who are assisting this abusive armed group, to the council’s existing sanctions list,” HRW said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The M23’s unrelenting killings and rapes are bolstered by the military support Rwandan commanders provide the rebel armed group,” said Clementine de Montjoye, Africa researcher at the New York-based rights monitor.
One of the survivors was a 46-year-old woman who was raped in February. “As they were raping me, one said: ‘We’ve come from Rwanda to destroy you’,” she said.
Her 75-year-old mother was shot dead for refusing to let the M23 fighters have sex with her.
Meanwhile, Kigali has dismissed HRW’s report.
“Rwanda is not going to be intimidated by these campaigns of disinformation and distractions from ongoing regional peace efforts,” government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told the AFP news agency.
The HRW report also claimed that groups backed by the DRC government in the fight with the M23, were also guilty of raping civilians.