Britain pledges funds for DR Congo rape victims

26th March 2013, Comments 0 comments

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague on Tuesday pledged funds to help support the documentation of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on a visit with Angelina Jolie to highlight the issue of rape as a "weapon of war".

Bad weather prevented Hague and the US film star from visiting the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Foreign Office in London said, where they were to meet representatives from Physicians for Human Rights.

The independent organisation, which uses medicine and science to combat rights violations, works from the hospital known for its support for sexual violence survivors.

Hague pledged more than £205,000 ($310,000, 240,000 euros) in funding from Britain to support their work.

The money will enable the provision of ultrasound machines, locked evidence cabinets and solar-powered medical headlamps that can be used to support investigations.

Hague said that he would ask other foreign ministers from the Group of Eight world powers at a meeting next month to make "practical commitments" aimed at tackling rape and sexual assault in conflict zones.

Without the work at the Panzi Hospital, "many women would not have survived the vicious attacks that they were subjected to," Hague said.

"There is an enormous human cost associated with rape and sexual violence, and there is an urgent need for the international community to act to prevent these crimes and support victims.

"At the meeting of G8 foreign ministers in London on April 11, I will be asking countries to make practical commitments so that we can erode and one day shatter the culture of impunity for those who use rape as a weapon of war."

In place of the planned visit to Panzi, Jolie and Hague visited the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma which treats rape victims and also offers counselling and help with setting up micro-enterprise schemes.

Hague and Jolie, a United Nations special envoy for refugee issues, are calling on the G8 to agree that rape and sexual violence constitute breaches of the Geneva Conventions governing warfare.

They also want a new international protocol on the documentation and investigation of the issue.

The campaign will also be taken to the UN Security Council in June and the UN General Assembly in September.


© 2013 AFP

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