2 UN Experts Who Vanished in Congo Found in Grave

Michael Sharp, Zaida Catalan went missing on March 12
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2017 8:03 AM CDT
Michael Sharp.   (Courtesy John Sharp)
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(Newser) – Since 2004, the UN has named six experts to compose the UN Group of Experts on Congo; on Monday, the bodies of two of them were discovered in a shallow grave. American Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, a Swede, went missing March 12 while in the central Kasai province, where they were gathering information on a rebel uprising against the government that the New York Times describes as "relatively new" and "poorly understood." The BBC received confirmation from a Congolese government rep that Catalan had been beheaded; Sharp had not. The body of their Congolese interpreter was also found, but three drivers who accompanied them remain missing. The rep cites a witness who says the group was ambushed and abducted. The UN is calling on the country to investigate.

Human Rights Watch explains the Group of Experts play a role in the sanctions imposed by the Security Council on the Democratic Republic of Congo, and make recommendations as to which individuals and groups should be added to the list. In pursuit of that, they gather intel on everything from human rights violations to gunrunning. Per HRW, "Their reports are among the most comprehensive and reliable sources of information about conflict dynamics in the Great Lakes region of Africa." The Times describes Sharp, 34, as incredibly well networked with the rebel leaders. "Rebels go to church. You build a relationship with them there," he had reportedly said. HRW notes this marks the first such crime against international workers in the Kasai region, which has until lately enjoyed peace in contrast with the country's tumultuous east. (Read more Democratic Republic of Congo stories.)

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