UN urges reparations fund for DR Congo rape victims

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The United Nations called Thursday on the international community to help create a special reparations fund for victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The strategy calls for the creation of a reparations fund mechanism for victims of sexual violence whose perpetrators are unidentified or insolvent, as a component of the fight against impunity," said Kang Kyung-wha, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights.

The move was recommended in a report compiled by a panel of experts who interviewed more than 60 victims over September and October 2010 across DR Congo.

The UN estimates that 15,000 women were raped in eastern DR Congo last year alone. Perpetrators include Congolese and foreign rebel groups, but also the national armed forces.

The victimisation is compounded by the fact that these women are often "rejected by their husbands, socially ostracized ... and left to fend for themselves" following their ordeal, said Kang during a special session at the UN Human Rights Council on the issue.

It is hoped that a reparations fund would help these victims by funding micro-credit projects, as well as clinics and tribunals, she said.

The proposal was also supported by DR Congo Justice Minister Bambi Lessa Luzolo who said: "There is no peace without justice and there is no justice without reparations."

He stressed however that the "government calls for international solidarity" on the issue, a call backed by the UN human rights chief.

"Although the state bears the primary responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of victims to remedies and reparations, I believe that there needs to be a serious reflection on the role of the international community in supporting national capacity to meet human rights obligations," said Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights.

© 2011 AFP

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