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Arms from Eastern Europe fueling rights abuse, Amnesty says

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KAMPALA, 5 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Large quantities of arms continue to flow into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fueling gross human rights abuse including killings, rape and torture, Amnesty International said in latest report released on Tuesday.

The group says companies from the United Kingdom, Israel, South Africa, the United States, Balkans and Eastern Europe provide weapons to militias in east DRC.

The new report, "Democratic Republic of Congo: Arming the east," documents evidence that, military aid has been provided from agents close to the Rwandan, Ugandan and the DRC governments to armed groups and militia of their choice in eastern DRC.

The report also documents arms sales through groups in neighbours Rwanda and Uganda.

"Millions have already lost their lives during seven years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed men are still raping, looting and killing civilians - as arms deliveries continue," Kolawole Olaniyan, director of Amnesty International's Africa Programme said in a statement.

"If the international community, the UN and neighbouring states fail to halt this proliferation, the fragile peace process will collapse with disastrous consequences for human rights," he added.

Ugandan Information Minister Nsaba Buturo denied the accusation saying it was in the interest of his country to have stability and Kinshasa's firm control over eastern Congo. He said Uganda was working with the Congolese government and the UN Mission in the country, MONUC, to stabilise the region.

"Government has gone out to align its interests with those of the DRC government and MONUC. The report is a surprise and not true," he said.

"It does not help to make blanket statements. Though Uganda has a threat of the presence of up to one thousands the Allied Democratic Forces (rebel) fighters there, we believe that long term stability cannot be attained through arms proliferation," he added.

Amnesty International called on the United Nations Security Council to renew and strengthen the UN embargo on arms exports to the DRC and impose severe restrictions or embargoes on any state found to be exporting arms to armed groups or militia in the central African country.

"The Council must ensure that all airports in the eastern DRC are monitored by specialised UN inspectors 24 hours a day, and that all aircraft found carrying illegal arms cargoes are grounded," Amnesty said.

The report cites what it says are specific incidents when the governments of the three countries got involved in arms trafficking in eastern DR Congo, well after the five-year civil war, which involved six countries, was declared over in 2003.

It also cites the role of Russian arms merchant Victor Bout, who uses local operators to arm all sides secretly and concludes that neighbouring countries fuel unrest to facilitate plundering the region's resources.

"International arms flows into the region have been channelled by powerful agents close to the governments of the DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda to various armed groups and militia in eastern DRC who practice banditry and show little or no respect for human rights," Brian Wood, Amnesty International's research manager on the arms, said.


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