The Guardian reports today that ‘villagers and townspeople in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are facing "extreme violence" with atrocities including mass executions, abductions, mutilations and rapes being committed almost daily, according to aid workers in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province’.
These distressing scenes from one of Africa’s most well-known conflict-ridden regions offers a sharp insight into the escalation of violence and conflict in the region in recent months, but how little attention has been paid to this devastation.
The lack of attention on the DRC could down to a few reasons: media fatigue about reporting on conflict in the same region, or just basically the fact that because the horrific events unfolding in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and North Africa are simply so devastating that there’s little room for media coverage of other horrors. But as we’ve seen time and time again, if perpetrators of the worst crimes and human rights violations are given no attention or censure , they are likely to carry on unabated and thousands of innocent men women and children will suffer the bloody consequences.
It isn’t rocket science. History teaches us this basic point. In fact, a former President was sentenced to spend half a century in prison yesterday for committing some of the worst crimes known to man. For most of the time, he was able to do so with little international scorn or disapproval. As Geoffrey Donaldson points out, some world leaders shied away from the responsibility of holding CharlesTaylor to account for years, giving him the chance to aid and abet 11 counts of war crimes. Staying below the radar was one way in which these atrocities can be committed. But another, perhaps more obvious is that the perpetrators of these crimes can get hold of the weapons to commit these abuses in the first place. As Amnesty’s Brian Wood’s piece on the Huffington Post illustrates, had there been tighter arms controls in place, many of the atrocities committed under the orders of Charles Taylor could have been averted.
Witnessing the scenes of devastation in the DRC, Syria and other parts of the world – it’s clear to see that an arms trade treaty is desperately needed. Support us in calling on Russia to help stop any further bloodshed in Syria. Repeatedly we’ve seen Russia use its vote as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block or weaken resolutions aimed at stopping the violence in Syria. They have to stop. You can also urge your MP to become an Arms Trade Treaty Champion.
It may seem like a hopeless situation. But I am convinced that if the world gets it right this July and votes for a robust Arms Trade Treaty, the world may indeed be a brighter place in the not too distant future.
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