India rakes up killing of peacekeepers at UNSC

With the killing of the two BSF personnel, the number of Indians killed in peacekeeping operations rises to 177…reports Arul Louis

India has raised at the Security Council the killing of Border Security Force Head Constables Sanwala Ram Vishnoi and Shishupal Singh in mob violence against UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

India’s Charge d’Affaires R. Ravindra expressed concern over the situation in DRC and the lack of adequate protection for peacekeepers – which India has consistently warned about – during a closed meeting of the Council held at the request of New Delhi, according to diplomatic sources.

Members of the Council expressed their condolences to India on the deaths of the peacekeepers.

A member of the Moroccan military was also killed in the attack on the UN peacekeepers, and, according to the Maghreb Agence Presse, 20 others were injured.

The two BSF personnel were stationed at a camp of the Moroccan Rapid Deployment Force in Butembo in Eastern DRC.

Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq said that at the Butembo base, “violent attackers snatched weapons from Congolese police and fired upon our uniformed personnel”.

Ironically, Vishnoi and Singh died at the hands of those they were trying to save.

The UN created the peacekeeping operations in the DRC to rout the several rebel militias there and stabilise the government.

The protests were reportedly called by a section of the youth wing of the ruling UDPS complaining about the UN’s inability to stop the attacks by rebel groups on civilians and the government.

There are 139 police and 1,888 military personnel from India in the DRC mission.

With the killing of the two BSF personnel, the number of Indians killed in peacekeeping operations rises to 177.

Of them, 19 have died in the current UN operation in the DRC, UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC known as MONUSCO for its initials in French, and 13 in the operation there before that called MONUC.

In addition, 39 Indian peacekeepers died in the UN operations there in the 1960s.

The DRC has been deadly for UN peacekeepers, claiming 650 lives in operations there since the 1960s.

Of them, 246 were with MONUSCO created by the Council in 2010, 161 with MONUC set up in 1999, and 243 with the operation in the 1960s soon after the country gained independence from Belgium in chaotic conditions that continue to this day.

In recent killings of UN peacekeepers, a Nepali was killed in April in an attack by the militia of the Cooperative pour le developement du Congo (CODECO).

And in March, six Pakistani peacekeepers were killed when a helicopter was shot down in March in an area where the M23 was active.

‘Attacks targeting peacekeepers may be war crime’

The killing of the two Border Security Force (BSF) personnel involved with the UN peacekeeping operations in Congo may be a ‘war crime’, the UN Security Council has declared, backing an assertion by the Acting Head of the mission there, who also said the world body will spare no efforts to find those responsible for the killings.

Issuing a strong condemnation of the attacks on UN peacekeepers in Congo, the Security Council in a press statement on Wednesday “underlined that deliberate attacks targeting peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law” and asked the Congolese authorities “to swiftly investigate these attacks and bring the perpetrators to justice”.

Kassim Diagne, the Deputy Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for the Congo mission, told reporters, “We will not leave any stone unturned to get to the bottom of the investigation.”

“This was clearly an act of hostility against our troops and, as you know, this may be a war crime,” he said while speaking from Kinshasa, the Congo state capital, through a video link to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

A declaration for revitalising peacekeeping that was unveiled by Guterres in 2017 and endorsed by India said that violence against UN personnel “may constitute war crimes” and it has been reiterated by the Security Council several times.

ALSO READ: 2 UN peacekeepers killed in DR Congo

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