A leading United Nations official in the fight against sexual violence during conflict began a week-long visit to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today to coordinate a response to the mass rape by rebels of more than 300 civilians two months ago in the country’s east.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Margot Wallström will make an on-site tour of the area of the attacks in North Kivu province.
The known victims include 235 women, 52 girls, 13 men, and 3 boys, some of whom were raped multiple times, according to a preliminary report by the UN human rights report issued last week. At least 923 houses and 42 shops were looted and 116 people were abducted in order to carry out forced labour.
The attacks, which took place mostly after dark in the Walikale region, were carried out between 30 July and 2 August by some 200 members of three armed groups – the Maï Maï Cheka, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), and elements close to Colonel Emmanuel Nsengiyumva, an army deserter who has in the past been involved with the rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP).
“The FDLR is once again responsible for grave human rights violations in the DRC,” Ms. Wallström said yesterday in Geneva on the sidelines of a UN Human Rights Council meeting there. “The establishment of responsibilities must begin with the leaders of this group and with those of other groups for not having prevented these outrages.”
She called on the DRC Government and the international community to mobilize to bring the perpetrators to justice “before the trail goes cold and media attentions flags.” Her mission is “to fight against impunity” and stop this crime against international law from “abandoning the women in their shame and leaving the perpetrators in liberty.”
A UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) mission is already in the country to assess the issue of reparations for rape and sexual abuse victims.
Ms. Wallström will meet with UN agencies and national and provincial officials to speed up the enactment of a global strategy against sexual violence.