WASHINGTON (October 29, 1997) -- The failure of efforts to stem the violence in the Great Lakes region of Central Africa has weakened the credibility of the international community, the chairman of the U.S. Catholic Conference International Policy Committee warned in a letter made public today.
"Despite many significant efforts, the international community has thus far failed in its obligation to help prevent the spread of deadly violence throughout the region, as we now have reports that violence has been directed against unarmed refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo," said Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick in a letter to Susan Rice, Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs.
He encouraged the United States to assist the governments of the region in fostering dialogue and negotiation, and finding and prosecuting those responsible for violations of human rights.
He suggested the establishment of an international tribunal to investigate and try crimes against humanity in the entire region as a step toward ending the "genocidal violence" and holding accountable those responsible for the violence.
"We believe that the limited scope of the current International Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda is a necessary but insufficient response to the crisis," he said.
Archbishop McCarrick also asked the United States government to resist the linkage of badly needed direct humanitarian assistance to the cooperation of officials in Congo with an investigation by the United Nations into violations of human rights.
"We fear that the immediate effect of such a policy will be the worsening of conditions for the most vulnerable segments of Congolese society," Archbishop McCarrick said. "We support, instead, focused U.S. efforts to promote dialogue and negotiations."
Recalling the massacre of close to a million ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, Archbishop McCarrick said there is credible evidence that "the unconscionable is occurring yet again, as thousands of innocent civilians are indiscriminately killed in the Congo and Rwanda. The inadequate measures enacted thus far have served only to weaken the international community's credibility in the Great Lakes."