Women and children beaten to death with clubs, hacked up with machetes—or, if they're "lucky," gang-raped and left alive. Such shocking acts are sadly commonplace in the conflict that has consumed Congo, perpetrated by both Rwandan rebels and their enemies in the Congolese army. The army, however, enjoys generous logistical support from the UN peacekeeping mission, even though the campaign has led to 1,400 civilian deaths, countless rapes, and mass displacement.
A new report by Human Rights Watch details how the Congolese and Rwandans have pursued a strategy of punishing civilians they believe are cooperating with the opposite side. The UN mission—the largest in the world—provides helicopters, trucks, food and coordination to the army, and it has exerted no leverage to impel its surrogate forces to obey the conventions of war. "Continued killing and rape by all sides in eastern Congo shows that the UN Security Council needs a new approach to protect civilians," a Human Rights Watch official tells the Washington Post.