UN forces arrest rebel leader for DRC mass rapes

UN forces arrest rebel leader for DRC mass rapes

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[JURIST] Commander of the rebel Mai Mai Cheka [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] Lieutenant Colonel Sadoke Kokunda Mayele was arrested [UN News Centre Report] Tuesday by UN peacekeepers and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] government forces for allegedly leading rebel groups in mass rapes in the DRC. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) [official website] arrested Mayele under the mandate [materials] of the mission to support the DRC in bringing justice to humanitarian crimes. Mayele has been charged with crimes against humanity, rape and looting [press release]. UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallstrom [EU profile], who is currently visiting the DRC, called for a swift, rigorous and open process of justice:

This is very good news for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a victory for justice, especially for the many women who have suffered rapes and other forms of sexual violence. The numerous criminal acts committed under ‘Lt. Col’ Mayele’s command cannot be undone, but let his apprehension be a signal to all perpetrators of sexual violence that impunity for these types of crimes is not accepted and that justice will prevail.

UN representatives allege that armed Congolese rebel groups Mai Mai Cheka, the Democratic Liberation Force of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], and rebels close to leaders previously connected to the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) [website, in French] raped between 150 and 200 women and children [NYT report] in a small cluster of villages in eastern DRC between July 30 and August 3 of this year. The attackers allegedly blocked all communication [BBC report] from the villages, preventing villagers from alerting UN peacekeepers stationed nearby.

Last week, 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, the UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict called for perpetrators of mass rapes, including heads of DRC militias, to face war crimes charges [JURIST report]. In August, members of the Security Council expressed “outrage” [JURIST report] over the recent mass rapes calling for justice for the victims. In December, HRW urged the UN Organization Mission in DR Congo (MUNOC) [official website] to stop funding military groups [JURIST report] in the country that are committing human rights abuses. In December 2008, AI reported that rape and sexual warfare have been employed [JURIST report] by both the DRC military and by rebel forces.