The United Nations is helping to restructure the prison system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), on the heels of the rapes of nearly two dozen female inmates during an attempted prison break earlier this week in the country’s far east.
During a 10-day workshop – bringing together 50 representatives of Government, academia and civil society – one dozen UN experts with the world body’s peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, will help the Ministry of Justice consider ways to restructure how prisons are administered.
Harriet Solloway, who heads MONUC’s Rule of Law section, said that escapes and mutinies, as well as illness and death, occur regularly, owing to insufficient and often unqualified personnel.
“It is rare for prisons to have a maintenance and operational budget for the prisoners,” she said, with prisons themselves dilapidated.
During the attempted break from the prison in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, on the night of 21-22 June, none of the inmates escaped, but about 20 female inmates were raped and assaulted during the incident, which also resulted in the deaths of one policeman and one prisoner, and the wounding of 12 others.
Expressing his deep distress at the incident, which was also condemned by MONUC, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“This is a grim example of both the prison conditions and the level of sexual violence that plagues the DRC,” he said in a <"http://www.un.org/apps/sg/sgstats.asp?nid=3941">statement issued in New York.
For its part, MONUC called on the authorities to initiate prison reform to ensure conformity with internationally recognized standards in the treatment of detainees, including strict separation of men and women, among other things.