The organization Amnesty International sees evidence of war crimes by the alleged Rwandan-backed M23 rebel group in eastern DRC. In a report, human rights experts used witness statements to reconstruct at least 20 killings and 66 rapes within a few days in November in the eastern Congolese province of North Kivu. “The scale and brutality of the gang rapes are particularly shocking,” it said.

There is evidence that the M23 rebels systematically punished and humiliated civilians they suspected of collaborating with enemy rebels, Amnesty said. These war crimes could constitute crimes against humanity, it said.

The M23 movement, founded in 2012, consists mostly of former soldiers of the Congolese army. The rebels in eastern Congo have been attacking civilians and the Congolese army again for almost a year. The military has repeatedly blamed M23 for killing hundreds of civilians in North Kivu.

Allegedly around 130 armed groups in eastern Congo

According to military sources, 356 Rwandan soldiers crossed the border on Thursday evening to provide support to M23 rebels. The neighboring country of Rwanda always rejects such accusations, although UN experts had submitted evidence of support in the past. The EU and the US, among others, have called on Rwanda to stop supporting the rebels.

According to the United States, a total of around 130 different armed groups are said to be active in eastern Congo, which has been torn apart by violence; many of them are concerned with controlling valuable natural resources such as copper, cobalt, gold and diamonds. According to the UN, there are more than five million internally displaced people in eastern Congo.