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Rights group claims Congo military and rebel groups engaging in sexual warfare

[JURIST] Rape and sexual warfare have been employed by the national army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] as well as by rebel groups, according to an Amnesty International (AI) [official website] report released [Reuters report] Friday. The report, based on an AI research mission to North Kivu [AI Livewire report], said that army units engaged in looting, killing, and rape without oversight or punishment, and victims were reportedly threatened if they attempted to seek medical attention. AI field operatives said that army commanders denied the abuses when confronted. AI Secretary-General Irene Khan called for immediate [AI press release] increased presence and protection from UN Mission in DR Congo (MUNOC) [official website] peacekeepers, particularly in refugee camps and along major roads. Khan also urged the DRC to prosecute human rights abusers, and for international bodies including the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] to hold the DRC government accountable for its troops' actions.

The report came the same day that the UN Security Council announced [UN News Centre report; press conference] evidence gathered by a designated Group of Experts that Rwandan authorities and the Congolese army provided assistance to enemy rebel groups in the eastern DRC. The group's report [PDF] found that the Rwandan government informally aided the rebel National Congress in Defence of the People (CNDP) [group website] to recruit soldiers, supplied military equipment, and sent Rwandan military units to support the predominantly-Tutsi CNDP. The report also cited "strong evidence" that the DRC national army provided military support to the majority-Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda(FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in operations against the CNDP.

Earlier this month, the UNHRC adopted a resolution [JURIST report] condemning human rights violations in the DRC, but was criticized for failing to reinstate an independent monitor and commence a fact-finding mission to investigate abuses. Last week, Human Rights Watch reported [HRW materials] that from November 4-5, 150 civilians were summarily executed just outside a MUNOC base in the North Kivu province. That report noted that the DRC armed forces are openly hostile to MUNOC efforts, and called for "bridging troop" support from the European Union. Current European Union President Nicolas Sarkozy immediately rejected the prospect of EU military intervention [Xinhua report] in the region. In 2006, UN officials declared [JURIST report] that sexual abuse of women and girls by soldiers in DRC combat zones had "become a cancer in Congolese society that seems to be out of control."

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