UN report documents stories of rape victims in the DRC

A UN panel of experts sent by UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay to the Democratic Republic of Congo to hear from the victims of sexual violence, recommends that they must benefit from their right to remedy and reparation. Gerry Adams has more:

Adams:  For years, the lives of women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the DRC, have been devastated by brutal rapes committed by armed gangs and soldiers. The area remains a focus of conflict because of rich mineral resources. Victims have contracted HIV/AIDS, have become pregnant and their husbands have blamed or rejected them for the atrocities over which they had no control. Jeanne Mukuninwa is one such victim.

Mukuninwa: They tied my uncle’s hands and feet to a tree. Then I was also tied and left there for whoever came to rape me.

Adams:  Mongu Akendua is another.

Akendua:  It is painful when people point you out in the community, as if we wanted these abuses to happen to us. A husband will say he does not want a “wife” of the rebels. The husband abandons you. Children are born of rebels. You say you give us counselling, and tell us we should not discriminate against the (unwanted) children, but everyone already knows how they were conceived.

Adams: A new United Nations report released on Thursday and based on the testimonies of hundreds of thousands of victims, some of them men, outlines the stark situation of victims of sexual violence in the DRC. The panel compiled the report for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and is the product of a 17 day filed visit to three different provinces and the capital, Kinshasa. Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, chaired the three member panel.

Kang: The panel noted the tremendous need of victims for remedies and reparation. The lives of the victims we met have been largely destroyed and they are suffering greatly physically, psychologically and materially. This victimization is compounded by the stigma they often face in families and communities.

Adams: Health care and security were seen as the preconditions for the restoration of normal life, the panel found. Again, Kyung-wha Kang.

Kang: The needs of the victims are largely unmet, particularly in remote areas. Health care and education for their children and for themselves were among the highest priorities conveyed repeatedly to the panel by the victims. In the Kivus, where armed conflict continues, first and foremost from the victims was the cry for peace and security. As they told the panel, without peace and security, the restoration of all else could be lost.

Adams: But many women never report the rapes either due to fear of stigmatization or lack of faith in the judicial system. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay describes just some of the obstacles the women face.

Pillay: In spite of the efforts undertaken by the government and the international community in the past few years, the obstacles victims face in obtaining access to justice remain daunting. They range from geographic distance to the costs associated with filing complaints to the absence of effective legal assistance. Even the few victims who achieved a conviction have not been paid the damages awarded by the courts.

Adams: The panel has recommended that a fund to support reparations be established as a matter of priority, with the governance of the fund to include representatives of the Government of the DRC, the United Nations, donors, civil society and survivors themselves.

duration: 3’46″

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