The United Nations envoy dealing with sexual violence in conflict has called on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to immediately investigate reports of a large number of rapes that occurred recently in the eastern province of South Kivu.
The non-governmental organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported that armed men raped over 30 women on New Year's Day in an attack in the eastern town of Fizi.
“I call upon the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to investigate the allegations thoroughly and without delay,” Margot Wallström, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, said in a statement.
“I expect the Government of the DRC to respect human rights, to do everything in its power to prevent abuses of all kinds, and to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” she added.
The statement also noted that immediately following these reports, the UN peacekeeping force in DRC, known by its French acronym MONUSCO, established an operational base in Fizi.
Wallström said that these reports “unfortunately confirm” the warnings she conveyed to the Security Council in October 2010, namely the risk that it now seems to be soldiers from the Congolese national army (FARDC) who are allegedly committing these crimes.
The Special Representative, who visited the DRC last April, has described the vast African nation as “the rape capital of the world.”
Just a few months ago, a UN human rights team confirmed that more than 300 civilians were raped between 30 July and 2 August 2010 in the Walikale region in eastern DRC by members of armed groups including the Maï Maï Cheka and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
“The use of sexual violence as a weapon or tactic of war, or as a means to wage terror against political opponents, is unacceptable,” stated Ms. Wallström.
“Impunity for these types of crimes must not be tolerated,” she stressed, adding that she is also closely following the situations in Côte d'Ivoire and Haiti, where there have been reports of sexual violence.