More than 40 military and justice officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have benefited from a United Nations-sponsored training workshop on investigating sex crimes, which are rampant in the vast African nation.
The four-day programme for military investigators, prosecutors and magistrates, which began on 30 January in Kisangani in DRC’s Orientale Province, was organized by the Rule of Law Division of the UN peacekeeping operation in the country – known as MONUC – along with the American Defence Institute of International Legal Studies.
“This training will not only help reduce the sexual violence scourge in the DRC, but also enhance the quality and capacity building of the magistrates who will then help bring offenders to book,” said Ivan Timnev, who heads MONUC’s Kisangani office told those gathered.
“The military will show and lead the way in following the law, therefore reducing sexual violence significantly and I hope the military justice will be credible for DRC justice to uphold the rule of law,” he added.
MONUC-Kisangani Correction Officer David Macharia expressed satisfaction regarding the training, noting that “many of the participants have not undergone any form of further training since leaving school and in their deployment as judicial officers, in spite of the many changes that have taken place in the respective field of application, hence the tremendous appreciation of this conference.”
Last month, Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, called for international action to help women in the DRC who are victims of sexual violence.
Following a visit to the country, she noted that countless victims are in inaccessible areas with little or no form of redress. “The justice system, the penitentiary system, is in deplorable conditions,” she said, adding that often victims must pay for access to the courts in what she called a “major obstacle to justice.”
Eastern DRC in particular has received greater attention because of the presence there of foreign groups, which she said were the “main perpetrators of violence against women as well as the civilian population in general.” However, she noted that the problems are not limited to that part of the country, pointing to similar abuses in Equator Province, where “the army and national police are among the main perpetrators.”