Laura Vassalli 7118763
Professor Alison Brysk
Global Studies 111
12 December 2012
HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN CONGO
The conflict in Congo is one of the worst of our contemporary history in terms of casualties and human rights violations. Since the beginning of the civil war in 1996 about 5.400.000 million people died. “The wars in that country have claimed nearly the same number of lives as having a 9/11 every single day for 360 days, the genocide that struck Rwanda in 1994, the ethnic cleansing that overwhelmed Bosnia in the mid-1990s, the genocide that took place in Darfur, the number of people killed in the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004, and the number of people who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaky- all combined and then doubled” (Vava Tampa, “Why the world is ignoring Congo”, CNN, 27 November 2012.) Congolese people face a deep humanitarian crisis. The infant mortality rate is impressive and people who survive have to fight against terrible conditions of life and escape from human rights abuses that are committed by military forces.
The humanitarian crisis has its roots in the war between the M23 rebel group and the National Congolese Army, a war that began as spillover from the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Both the M23 group and the National Congolese Army are supported by Rwanda's political groups, Tutsi and Hutu, which use the conflict in Congo to reinforce their power. In addition, local militias fight in order to obtain control over the population and resources. Extreme poverty and economic underdevelopment characterize the country. “Living conditions in the country have become the worst in the world, according to the most recent Index of Human Development” (Severine Autesserre, “The Only Way to Help Congo”, New York Times, 22 June 2012) Because of the poverty and the tensions among society it is hard to envisage an end to the civil war. Military control over the territory, civil war, economic inequality and divided culture create the conditions for human rights abuses.
This war is causing severe human rights violations: rapes of women and girls, massacres, burning of villages, forced displacement happen every day. Military forces torture people in open violation of international law. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, signed on the 10th of December 1984, is an international law instrument aimed to punish the perpetrators of this crime against humanity. The history of the prohibition of torture as a mean of war goes back decades. The first Geneva Convention of 1864 defined the torture a crime against humanity. The Geneva treaties that followed called torture an international crime that must be punished by the international community. The Human Rights Declaration of 1948 declares in Article 5 that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. The Declaration was adopted in reaction to the terrible Nazi's crimes during World War II. The auspice was to prevent such crimes in the future. However, violations of human rights and crimes against humanity did not stop. During the Cold War, civil wars broke out in many parts of Africa and Latin America and caused humanitarian crisis. The transition to independence in African countries led to political crisis and power fights between tribes. Sometimes, Western countries intervened in these conflicts but they failed to help people; therefore, the situation worsened. Despite the United Nations' efforts to banish torture and prevent it, this crime against humanity continues to happen.
The Convention against Torture had the objective to reinforce the protection of civilians and punish people who commit torture. “Tortures are considered hotis humani generis or enemies of humankind” (Schulz 301) and as such they are subjected to universal jurisdiction. The crime they inflict to innocents is considered a crime against all; therefore, every state of the...
Chapters from Michael Goodhart, Human Rights- Politics and Practice.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
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