The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today welcomed the life sentences handed down by a Congolese court on four men convicted of murdering two UN military observers in 2003 as well as life terms given 13 others accused of massacring civilians last year.
"These verdicts constitute remarkable progress in the struggle against impunity, which must not however hide the fact that much remains to be done in this field," the mission, know by its acronym as MONUC, said in a statement. "MONUC hopes that the new Congolese authorities will carry out the necessary security service reforms, one of the prerequisites in the struggle against impunity."
Two others charged in the case of the murdered UN observers were sentenced to 10 and 20 years in prison respectively. The two observers, one from Jordan and the other from Malawi, were killed on 12 May 2003 at Mongbwalu in Ituri province in eastern DRC.
The issue of impunity has been a major concern for MONUC. Last year's massacre of civilians in Bavi, also in Ituri, was perpetrated by elements of the First Integrated Brigade of the RDC army and the brigade's assistant commander was sentenced to 180 days in prison.
MONUC has overseen the DRC's transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives in fighting and attendant hunger and disease, widely considered the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II, to gradual stabilization, culminating in the first democratic elections in over four decades last year, the largest and most complex polls the UN has ever helped to organize.