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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
Rwanda in dock over DR Congo role
Rwandan troops
Rwanda has thousands of troops in eastern DR Congo

The International Court of Justice in The Hague has begun hearings in a suit filed by the Democratic Republic of Congo against a neighbouring country, Rwanda, for its role in the DR Congo's four-year war.

Rwanda, which supports the main rebel group in Congo, says its presence there is merely one of self-defence.

UN monitor
UN monitors oversee a shaky cease-fire
The government in Kinshasa is calling on the court to demand the immediate withdrawal of all Rwandan soldiers from its territory.

It accuses them of being responsible for the death of three-and-a-half-million people, of systematically plundering DR Congo's natural and mineral riches and of committing countless human rights abuses.

Looting

The Congolese Government also asks the court to order an embargo on the sale of arms to Rwanda and on the sale from Rwanda of gold and other minerals it says have been looted from DR Congo.

Uganda backs MLC rebels, Rwanda backs RCD rebels
Uganda backs MLC rebels, Rwanda backs RCD rebels

Since August 1998, Rwanda has been behind the rebellion that now occupies eastern DR Congo.

Security analysts say it has some 40,000 men stationed there and numerous independent reports from aid agencies, human rights organisations and the United Nations have condemned the behaviour of the Rwandan troops and their Congolese allies.

Arbitrary arrests, summary executions and rape are frequently reported, while only last month in the city of Kisangani they are alleged to have executed some 200 dissident soldiers, policemen and innocent civilians.

Many of the bodies were mutilated before being dumped in a nearby river.

Misery

The war in eastern Congo has devastated people's livelihoods, which is why international aid agencies now estimate that disease and poverty have killed as many as two-and-a-half-million people in the past four years.

But no-one other than Kinshasa claims that this is a genocide.

The many international studies of the suffering and abuses of DR Congo's war have been equally critical of the government and its own proxy forces, which include Rwandan militias involved in the 1996 Rwandan genocide.

The Rwandan Government has always justified its control of eastern DR Congo by saying it needs a buffer zone between its frontier and these militias.


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