December 13, 2008 / 12:57 AM / 11 years ago

Panel urges U.N. to expand Congo sanctions list

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A panel of experts has given the U.N. Security Council a new list of names of people and entities who should face travel bans and frozen assets for their support of rebels in eastern Congo, the head of the panel said.

Jason Stearns, head of the five-member panel that submitted a report to the council’s committee overseeing implementation of the arms embargo against rebels in Congo, told reporters on Friday it was now up to the U.N. Security Council to decide whether to add them to the U.N. blacklist.

“The group has submitted a confidential annex to the Sanctions Committee regarding entities and individuals that it recommends for sanctions,” he said.

The council is scheduled to discuss the report on Monday.

Stearns declined to give any details about the individuals or companies recommended for sanctions, but the panel’s report says both the Rwandan government and army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been supporting rebel groups.

Among those accused of providing support to rebels loyal to renegade Congolese Tutsi Gen. Laurent Nkunda is Tribert Rujugiro, an adviser to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Nkunda’s rebels have routed the Congolese army and captured swathes of territory in eastern Congo since August, sending around a quarter of a million people fleeing for their lives.

Among the most damning documents in the report is an email in which Rujugiro thanks someone in Dubai for arranging payment of $120,000 for the “soldiers” of “our friend Laurent.”

Rwanda has vehemently denied supporting Nkunda, but Stearns made clear the panel had enough credible evidence to say with confidence that Nkunda’s rebels were aided by Rwandan authorities and the government was aware of that aid.

“Given the fairly organized structure of the Rwandan government there is certainly knowledge of this,” Stearns said. “Given what we have described in the report, they must know about this. They haven’t done anything to bring it to an end.”

CONGO’S ARMY ALSO GUILTY

The panel’s report offers evidence that Rwandan authorities sent officers and units of the Rwandan army to Congo to support Nkunda’s rebels, helped them recruit soldiers, including children, and have helped the rebels get weapons.

The same holds for the Congolese army, which Stearns said provided support for Rwandan Hutu rebels active in North Kivu province, some of whom are believed to have taken part in the 1994 slaughter of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

He said the Congolese army was the main source of weapons for all armed groups in eastern Congo, since weapons caches are either captured by Nkunda’s troops, sold directly to rebels or donated to allies of the Congolese army like the Rwandan Hutu rebels.

“The group found that all armed groups continued to recruit and maintain children in their ranks, and are responsible for serious violations of international law targeting women and children,” he said.

He also said the Rwandan Hutu rebels were earning millions of dollars a year from the illicit minerals trade, mostly by taxing mines and trade routes in the mineral rich region of eastern Congo. Many traders in Congo and the region knowingly take part in this trade and purchase the minerals, he said.

Editing by Claudia Parson and Todd Eastham

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