, KINSHASA, Dec 16 – A Human Rights Watch report accusing DR Congo soldiers of attacking civilians is "an attempt to distort the truth", a government minister said on Tuesday.
"We condemn this as disproportionate and an attempt to delegitimise the Congolese state," Communication Minister Lambert Mende told reporters. "(It is) an attempt to distort the truth".
He also criticised the NGO for what he said was its "systematic approach" of associating government troops (FARDC) with private militia men.
Mende said that any crimes committed by government soldiers would be dealt with by the courts.
In the report called "You Will Be Punished: Attacks on Civilians in Eastern Congo," HRW said at least 1,400 civilians were killed from January to September, and said the United Nations should step in to stem the bloodshed.
"Congolese army soldiers and FDLR rebel combatants have attacked civilians, accused them of being collaborators, and \’punished\’ them by chopping many to death with machetes," said the report released Monday.
The New York-based group urged the UN to set up a "civilian protection expert group" to devise measures to help safeguard people in the strife-torn east of the country, where rape is also commonplace and committed by all parties to the conflict.
The UN peacekeeping mission, MONUC, has backed an anti-rebel offensive since March.
The 183-page report cites evidence from 600 victims, witnesses and family members of the victims.