July 1, 1997

UN team to press rights probe in Kabila's Congo

GENEVA, Switzerland - U.N. officials will try to overcome Congolese opposition to an international inquiry into alleged human rights abuses in the former Zaire in a meeting in Kinshasa Tuesday, a U.N. spokeswoman said.

The U.N. Security Council urged the new Democratic Republic of Congo authorities Monday to cooperate with U.N. investigators trying to probe allegations that ethnic Rwandan Hutu refugees were slaughtered by forces loyal to new President Laurent Kabila.

Terms for a U.N. investigation have so far been rejected by Kabila's government, according to an advance team of U.N. officials which has been in the capital Kinshasa for 10 days.

``The preparatory mission has an appointment today in Kinshasa at 1400 local time with the dignitaries designated by Etienne Mbaya, minister for reconstruction, to discuss a revised draft protocol agreement which covers the modalities for an investigation,'' U.N. spokeswoman Therese Gastaut told reporters in Geneva. She gave no details of the proposal.

Security Council President Sergei Lavrov of Russia said after talks in New York, ``The members expressed their concern (and) the need for the Democratic Republic of the Congo authorities to fully cooperate with the investigation team.''

The investigation, planned to start July 7, follows allegations that Kabila's Tutsi-backed forces, or their Rwandan or Ugandan allies killed Hutu refugees as they marched across the former Zaire on the way to toppling longtime autocrat Mobutu Sese Seko in May.

Kabila has repeatedly promised the international community that he would cooperate with the U.N. inquiry, called for in a resolution adopted by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in April.

Diplomats at the New York meeting said U.N. officials outlined three main problems with the intended inquiry:

-- Kabila's refusal to accept as a member of the missionChilean lawyer Roberto Garreton, who was also persona non grata to Mobutu

-- A demand that the group investigate atrocities against refugees that may have occurred before October 1996 when Mobutu was still in power and before Kabila's allies became active in eastern Zaire.

-- difficulties in logistics and freedom of movement for the investigators in the vast and chaotic central African country.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in talks with Kabila in early June, was reported to have discussed Garreton's removal from the investigation, a move that has outraged human rights groups as well as several council delegations.

A European envoy noted that Garreton had been the special rapporteur, or investigator, for the area since 1994. If he were axed from the team, other countries under U.N. scrutiny, such as Iraq or Burma, could pose demand the removal of unpalatable investigators.

In April, Garreton accused rebels loyal to Kabila of massacring Rwandan refugees during their push across the region late in 1996. He urged a speedy investigation into alleged killings and torture.

Garreton said he had seen three mass graves near the empty refugee camps of Kibumba, Katale and Kilimanyako, near Goma. He said his attempts to visit others were thwarted by rebels.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees has said 250,000 Hutus who had lived in camps in Zaire since 1994 are unaccounted for. Another 800,000 went home after their camps were overrun.