A rebel group in eastern Congo has defended its right to organize criminal trials despite concerns from the country's United Nations mission.

Kabasha Amani, a civilian spokesman for the M23 rebel movement that briefly occupied Goma last November after routing the government army, said Friday that the rebels could not ignore criminals in the areas they control.

Roger Meece, the head of the U.N. mission in Congo, has expressed concern about the rebels' plans to try 11 young men accused of illegally possessing weapons. He says the rebels could not guarantee a fair trial that adhered to international standards.

Although Amani defended the group's efforts to crack down on criminality, M23 military spokesman Vianney Kazarama declined to say whether the trial would go ahead.