Victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will have the opportunity to speak out before a high-level panel convened by the United Nations human rights chief beginning on Thursday in the country’s eastern province of South Kivu.
The panel will hear from survivors and others about their experiences of and opinions on “the various judicial, medical, psycho-social and socio-economic reintegration measures available to respond to their needs in terms of justice and reparations,” stated a news release issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
Sexual violence has been a serious problem for many years in the DRC, which has been described as the “rape capital of the world” by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström.
Last week a UN human rights team confirmed that at least 303 civilians were raped between 30 July and 2 August in the Walikale region in the eastern part of the country, while warning that the total number of victims may be even higher.
Around 200 members of three armed groups carried out the attacks, whose known victims include 235 women, 52 girls, 13 men, and 3 boys, some of whom were raped multiple times.
Chaired by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang, the panel will consider how survivors of sexual violence and others perceive responses to the crimes committed against them, with a particular focus on the adequacy of remedies and reparations.
In 2009, the Congolese Government adopted the National Strategy and Plan of Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence, which includes the objective of ensuring reparations for victims of sexual violence.
Also on the panel are Elisabeth Rehn, former Minister of Defense of Finland and currently a board member of the International Criminal Court’s Trust Fund for Victims, and Denis Mukwege, Medical Director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu.
Their work will also benefit from the participation of the DRC national and provincial authorities.
After the hearings in Bukavu, the panel will travel to several provinces throughout the DRC until 10 October and will convene a forum in the capital, Kinshasa, on 12 October to discuss its preliminary observations and follow-up with various stakeholders in the Government, the UN, international partners and civil society.