[JURIST] The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UNJHRO) [official website] released a report [text, DOC] Wednesday detailing widespread sexual violence committed by government forces and rebel groups between January 2010 and December 2013 in the DRC. According to the report the UNJHRO documented 3,635 cases of sexual violence through its 18 field offices. The UN group warned that the recorded number appears low because they do not account for sexual violence perpetrated by civilians and include only those cases which were verified according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) methodology of collection and verification. Within the time period documented a little over half of all sexual violence was committed by armed groups, the other smaller half attributable to State agents. The DRC’s military the FARDC was singly responsible for 1,280 victims mostly in the war torn provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Orientale. According to the report 73 percent of the recorded victims were women (2,648 victims), 25 percent were children (906 victims) and 2 percent were men (81 victims). At a press conference [press release] on sexual violence in DRC held Wednesday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] stated, “I call on the Government to prioritize the fight against impunity for crimes of sexual violence, to promptly complete effective and independent investigations, and to prosecute alleged perpetrators, including those suspected of having command responsibility.” Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous [official profile] at the same press conference told reporters that the DRC’s government has made positive headway towards prosecuting perpetrators of sexual violence especially within the FARDC. Ladsous also emphasized the need for reform and strengthening of the judicial and penal system within the DRC.
Earlier this month a coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration [JURIST report] urging the DRC to create new mechanisms in its national justice system for prosecuting war crimes. In October the top official for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) [official website], Martin Kobler, condemned [JURIST report] a series of attacks perpetrated by the Mayi-Mayi Cheka [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], which resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians, including 20 children, in the eastern region of the DRC. In September Navi Pillay welcomed [JURIST report] the establishment of a national human rights commission in the DRC but said that rights abuses continue in the east. The report came on the heels of the UN’s call to diminish institutionalized impunity [JURIST report] in the war-torn nation.