GENEVA/KINSHASA (22 July 2011) – A UN report released today into mass rapes and other human rights violations committed in North Kivu has brought into stark focus the need to reinforce the justice system and accountability mechanisms in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The report, based on investigations conducted by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO)* in the DRC, established that from 31 December 2010 to 1 January 2011, in the villages of Bushani and Kalambahiro, North Kivu, at least 47 women were victims of sexual violence, including rape. Some 100 houses were looted, 12 civilians were victims of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and two were abducted. The exact number of rapes may be considerably higher.
While the investigation could not definitively ascertain who committed the violations, elements of the Congolese armed forces were consistently pointed out as the alleged perpetrators. Allegedly, 100 soldiers of the Forces Armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), armed with whips, batons, machetes, AK47s and rocket launchers had attacked the inhabitants of these localities on the grounds that they were supporting enemy forces.
The incomplete and fragile process of integration of some former armed groups into the FARDC posed a major obstacle to the identification of the perpetrators. Elements integrated in the FARDC, including some from the former Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP) armed wing, do not acknowledge central command authority and essentially remain outside of the established chain of command.
The report also highlighted the lack of significant progress of judicial investigations into the incidents which were initiated by Congolese authorities with the support of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). This is due to the limited resources available to the Congolese justice system and to the lack of clear information from the FARDC.
While calling for justice to be done, the report also stressed the need to take urgent measures to prevent reprisals against victims and witnesses and to strengthen protection of civilians.
“Several months after the events, [the victims] are still living in a state of insecurity, hiding in the forests or neighboring towns,” the report states, citing incidents where civilians were warned of the impending launch of a new attack against Bushani and Kalambahiro in retaliation for their collaboration with investigators.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and MONUSCO head, Roger Meece, said MONUSCO was aware of constraints limiting the authorities’ capacity to investigate and prosecute instances of gross human rights violations. But he underscored the importance of the obligation of all military officers to provide full support and cooperation to ongoing investigations, including the identification of alleged perpetrators, so that those guilty of crimes may be brought to justice. He also stressed that MONUSCO will continue to provide support to the Congolese authorities in their efforts to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stressed the obligation of the state to prevent such violations and to bring perpetrators to justice.
“Rape and sexual violence have, for too long, been systematically used as weapon of war by various armed elements in the DRC,” she said. “The Government must prioritize reinforcement of the capacity of the justice system, with the support of the international community.”
She also recommended that in the future, integration of armed groups be accompanied by a vetting mechanism to ensure that alleged perpetrators of serious human rights violations are excluded from security forces.
“Such a vetting mechanism is absolutely critical for any sustainable peace in the country and the region,” she said.
**The UN Joint Human Rights Office, which was established in February 2008, comprises the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC.
OHCHR Country Page – Democratic Republic of the Congo: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZRIndex.aspx
For more information or interviews, please contact UN Human Rights press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or email@example.com)
In Kinshasa: Pour de plus amples informations sur ce rapport, merci de contacter le porte-parole de la MONUSCO, Mounoubai Madnodje (+243 81 890 76 05 ou firstname.lastname@example.org