DRC force unit troubles rights group

March 28, 2013 at 9:48 AM

PARIS, March 28 (UPI) -- The United Nations needs to ensure human rights are protected if it decides to go ahead with a special peacekeeping unit in DRC, human rights groups said.

The U.N. Security Council is considering a special unit within the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by its French initials MONUSCO, that would take on a combat role.

Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, said rights groups were concerned by the so-called intervention brigade.

"The incorporation of such an offensive military force into a U.N. mission would mark an unprecedented change to the traditional United Nations peacekeeping model and require stronger human rights protection's mechanisms to avoid increased harm to civilians," she said in a statement.

The rebel March 23 Movement seized control over parts of eastern DRC last year. Former M23 leader Bosco Ntaganda surrendered to the International Criminal Court last week, where he's the subject of two arrest warrants for war crimes committed in DRC.

MONUSCO said it handed more than 200 rebel fighters over to the Congolese government this week. Belhassen said the intervention force may raise the risk of retaliatory attacks by rebels.

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