A UN Security Council committee has ordered sanctions against a Democratic Republic of Congo army officer accused of murdering and raping women and children, and three rebel leaders.
Innocent Zimurinda, a militia leader who was brought into the DR Congo army and made a lieutenant colonel, has long been one of the most feared names in the strife-torn eastern part of the African nation, diplomats said.
He was an army brigade commander whose orders led to the "massacre" of more than 100 women and children, mainly Rwandan refugees, in eastern DR Congo in April 2009, said a joint statement released by the French, British and US missions at the United Nations.
Before being taken into the army as part of a peace deal, Zimurinda was in the CNDP militia and took part in an operation in November 2008 that led to the "massacre" of 89 people, including many women and children, the statement added.
According to investigators, 10 women were gang raped and many had their breasts cut off.
"He is one of the most brutal in a zone where there is no shortage of bloodthirsty combatants," said one diplomat of the move. Reports have also said that Zimurinda controls mines in Congo's Nord Kivu province.
The other three individuals added to the DR Congo sanctions list were:
Gaston Iyamuremye -- president of the ethnic Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which has been accused of terrorizing the civilian population in eastern DR Congo.
Leodomir Mugaragu -- an FDLR military planner and a head of its military wing.
The French, British and US missions said that all four would be subject to a worldwide travel ban and asset freeze.
The three nations said they would work with the sanctions committee to identify other individuals and groups that merit action.
"These designations demonstrate the international community's determination to fight against those who oppose the disarmament of rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and those responsible for the recruitment of children and serious human rights abuses," said the statement.
Rebel and militia groups, along with rogue army elements, have been battling for control of mineral riches in eastern DR Congo provinces for several years. Whole villages have been razed and in July and August several hundred women were the victims of mass rapes.
The sanctions committee was set up by the UN Security Council in 2004.
Before Wednesday's meeting, it already had 20 individuals and six organizations on its list. All are accused of violating a UN arms embargo in eastern DR Congo, recruiting child soldiers and human rights abuses.
Zimurinda has already been named at UN Security Council meetings on DR Congo.
In March, 51 rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, made an official complaint to the DR Congo government about the officer, demanding that he be suspended and investigated.
The groups said they had evidence of "serious human rights abuses" carried out since 2007 by troops under Zimurinda's command, often with his direct involvement.
"These include massacres, summary executions, rape, recruitment of children, forced labor, forced evictions, illegal taxation, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Many of these abuses continue as we write," said their letter to the head of the DR Congo army.
He was accused of the rape of "a large number of women and girls".
In May, the UN special representative for children in conflict accused Zimurinda of involvement in the execution-style killings of child soldiers.
The UN Security Council has expressed growing frustration with events in DR Congo. This week it backed new guidelines seeking to make companies check on imports from the country to make sure payments do not go to armed groups.
Source: AFP Global Edition