DR Congo rapists must be brought to justice: UN

22nd July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The United Nations Friday urged authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring the perpetrators of a New Year's day mass rape to justice and said fearful victims were still in hiding.

A UN probe said in a report that those who carried out the rapes in Nord-Kivu -- identified by witnesses as members of the Congolese army (FARDC) -- may have also received food aid from the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO).

The report said that on New Year's Eve 2010, "at least 100 men, in uniform, identified by various sources as FARDC soldiers, surrounded and gradually invaded the village (of Bushani) under the pretext that its inhabitants were hiding rebels and weapons."

Over the next two days, "men in uniform identified by various sources as FARDC soldiers, armed with machetes, AK-47 (assault rifles) and rocket launchers, carried out a manhunt and systematically searched the village of Bushani and the nearby forest."

At least 47 people, 46 women and one girl, aged 16 to 65, including pregnant women, were abused in the process, said the joint probe by the UN human rights office and MONUSCO.

"In addition, during its investigation missions in Bushani, the team found packagings bearing the references of food rations distributed to 'screened' battalions which received support from MONUSCO," the report said.

The probe also established that one of the battalions which receive such support was near the village in December 2010.

"The men identified as FARDC soldiers involved in these violations may have received MONUSCO support," said the report, which called for new measures to tighten food distribution to the army.

With perpetrators still on the loose after seven months, the victims "are still living in permanent insecurity, hiding in the forests or neighbouring towns," it noted.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said: "The government must prioritize reinforcement of the capacity of the justice system, with the support of the international community."

The probe was undertaken over four days in January and February, and interviewed "victims, witnesses, local authorities, FARDC soldiers (and) MONUSCO soldiers."

© 2011 AFP

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