A draft UN report says the Rwandan army that ended the 1994 slaughter of more than 500,000 people retaliated with killings in Congo two years later that also could be classified as a genocide.
The report also said Rwanda’s rebel allies, tied to the current Congolese president, helped kill tens of thousands of Hutus – the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly.
“Upon entering a locality, they ordered the people to gather together ... Once they were assembled, the civilians were bound and killed by blows of hammers or hoes to the head.”
The systematic and widespread attacks “could be classified as crimes of genocide” by a competent court, the draft said.
The leaked report is a major embarrassment to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, an ally of the United States and Britain and whose government long claimed the moral high ground for ending the 1994 genocide of Tutsis that included the killings of some moderate Hutus.
Le Monde, the French newspaper that first leaked the report, said Mr Kagame is threatening to withdraw Rwandan troops in the UN-African peacekeeping force in Darfur, Sudan, if the genocide allegations are officially published.
Congo’s President Joseph Kabila was also a commander of the Congolese rebels named in the report at the time of the attacks.
Congo’s government denied the accusations and derided the report as partisan, incomplete and unjustifiable.
“The deeds are presented as if it is the Congolese who are the assassins, the genociders, when it is totally the opposite,” it said in a 50-page response to the UN.
Rwanda’s government said the report was “dangerous and irresponsible”, risked creating more instability in the region, and suggested it was leaked to divert attention from UN peacekeepers’ failure to protect civilians in a recent mass rape atrocity.
“It is immoral and unacceptable that the United Nations, an organisation that failed outright to prevent genocide in Rwanda and the subsequent refugee crisis, a direct cause for so much suffering in Congo and Rwanda, now accuses the army that stopped the genocide of committing atrocities” in Congo, said spokesman Ben Rutsinga.
He said the investigators did not meet Rwandan officials, though they found time for 200 non-government organisations and that their report was “based on questionable methodology, sourcing and shockingly low standard of proof”.
Investigators, though, said they required two independent sources for each of the 600 incidents documented in their 545-page report.
In Geneva, spokesman Rupert Colville said he was disappointed that the draft from the High Commissioner for Human Rights was leaked.
He said changes were still being finalised, but declined to say if they included the use of the word “genocide”.
The report, whose publication has been delayed for a year, said Hutus in Congo - both Rwandan refugees and Congolese – were clearly targeted.
Witnesses said the soldiers “displayed a clear desire for revenge in their massacres of the (Congolese) Hutu Banyarwanda, targeting villages where Tutsis had been persecuted in the past”.