UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom [official profile] on Thursday condemned alleged gang rapes of at least 30 Congolese women who were being deported from neighboring Angola [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and called for both countries to investigate. A UN official indicated that the alleged victims [UPI report] were among about 150 Congolese deported from Angola [UN News Centre report] recently. A 2009 agreement [BBC report] between Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] called for each government to cease mass expulsions of the other's citizens. Wallstrom called on the governments of both countries [UN News Centre report] to identify the perpetrators and enhance efforts to protect women and children. Also Thursday, US State Department [official website] Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley told reporters [text]:
[T]he United States has repeatedly condemned the epidemic of sexual violence in conflict zones around the world and continues to speak out on this issue. We support efforts to protect local populations against sexual and gender-based violence and to bring to justice those who commit such atrocities. We are reacting to reports of rapes along the Angola-Congo border and we encourage Angolan officials to investigate these allegations and determine who perpetrated the alleged human rights violations against Congolese women before their deportation.Crowley urged both governments to address migration issues and protect women and children.
Many in the international community have grown concerned by mass rapes in the Congo region recently. Earlier this month, UN peacekeepers and DRC forces arrested [JURIST report] rebel group Mai Mai Cheka [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] leader Lieutenant Colonel Sadoke Kokunda Mayele for allegedly leading mass rapes [JURIST news archive], along with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) [Global Security backgrounder] and other rebel groups, in the DRC in late July and early August. Earlier this month, the UN released a report on war crimes [text, PDF; JURIST report] and human rights abuses in the DRC. The report, originally expected to be released in September [JURIST report], lists 617 of the most serious violations of human rights, including violence against children, genocide and mass rape, committed between 1993 and 2003. Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] issued a statement condemning the recent mass rapes [text; JURIST report] and calling for justice for the victims. Also last month, Wallstrom called for perpetrators of mass rapes, including heads of DRC militias, to face war crimes charges [JURIST report].