UN: rape being used as weapon of war in DRC

UN: rape being used as weapon of war in DRC

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[JURIST] The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo (MONUSCO) released a report [text, PDF] confirming the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder] last summer, but continued investigations were suspended on Wednesday due to reprisal attacks on rape victims [AP report]. The report, released last week, indicated that most of the attacks were committed by the Democratic Liberation Force of Rwanda (FDLR), but some were also perpetrated by the Mai Mai [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] and followers of army deserter Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, all Congolese rebel groups. The report describes the rapes as systematic and clearly used as a strategic tactic in the conflict:

In view of the consistent statements that were collected, the team can conclude that at least 387 civilians were raped, including 300 women, 23 men, 55 girls, and 9 boys during the attack on villages along the Kibua-Mpofi axis. It is highly likely that the number of victims is higher, as some victims did not come forward for the reasons given in paragraph 5 of this report. According to local sources, the attacks were a punitive strike intended to subjugate local communities living along the Kibua-Mpofi axis, considered as “traitors” for reportedly sympathizing with Government forces, and aimed at equipping the coalition of armed groups. The armed groups allegedly decided to scare them forever through extremely humiliating acts, hence the planning of mass rapes. According to the statement of a local victim from the Nianga ethnic group, “It is better to die than being raped by FDLR and their allies, because such rape is the worst humiliation against a human being.”

MONUSCO declared that the rapes could be war crimes as well as crimes against humanity and recommended further judicial action and more investigation. In February, a military court found Lt Col Kibibi Mutware guilty of involvement in mass rapes [JURIST report] that took place on New Year’s Day and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment, dismissing him from the military. This has been the only action taken on the issue.

DRC has been struggling with a number of human rights issues. Last month, a military court sentenced four policemen to death for killing prominent human rights activist Floribert Chebeya last year. In early October, Human Rights Watch called for the DRC government [JURIST report] to arrest general Bosco Ntaganda pursuant to an outstanding warrant for war crimes issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website]. Earlier that same week French authorities arrested a leader [JURIST report] of the FDLR for crimes committed by that group in the DRC. In October, UN peacekeeping forces and the DRC government arrested Mai Mai Cheka [JURIST report] for allegedly leading a rebel group responsible for mass rapes in the country.