Members of the Security Council today voiced outrage at the recent mass rape of civilians by members of armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and repeated their demand that parties to the conflict there cease all forms of sexual violence and other human rights violations.
In a statement read out to the press by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of Russia, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for August, the 15-member body emphasized that the DRC Government must continue to pursue its efforts to fight impunity, and urged it to swiftly investigate the latest attacks and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
At least 154 civilians were raped in 13 villages along a 21-kilometre stretch of road in North Kivu province’s Banamukira territory between 30 July and 2 August, with the attackers blocking the road and preventing the villagers from reaching outside communications. Many homes were also looted.
The atrocities have been blamed on the Mai-Mai militia and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group of ethnic Hutu fighters linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Members of the Council welcomed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s decision to send Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to the DRC to gather facts on the attack.
Mr. Khare will consult with relevant national authorities, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC and UN personnel on the ground to ascertain the facts and circumstances surrounding the gang rapes and to assess what more could be done to ensure more effective protection of civilians.
The Council members also welcomed the Secretary-General’s instruction to his Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, to coordinate the UN response and follow-up on the incident. They demanded that all possible steps be taken to prevent such atrocities in future.
The outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, also deplored the attack.
“This was truly a horrific event the full scale of which we may not yet know,” Mr. Holmes told reporters in New York during his final news conference at the UN.
He said the risk of sexual violence, which he described as a “scourge” in the eastern DRC, will remain until the problem of the presence of marauding armed groups was fully addressed.
“The reality is that until these armed groups, particularly the FDLR, are dealt with once and for all this risk is still going to be there,” said Mr. Holmes, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.