Congolese army and rebel fighters accused of mass rape and looting

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Residents of Rutshuru Territory flee their homes to seek safety UN Photo/Sylvain Liechti

An investigation carried out by the United Nations has revealed wide-ranging human rights violations committed by Congolese army soldiers and the fighters belonging to the M23 rebel group in the aftermath of the clashes for the control of Goma town in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The atrocities are reported to have been carried out between 20th and 30th November in the town of Minova in South Kivu province.

The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) says at least 126 women, including 24 minors, were victims of sexual violence, including rape.

The investigators have also documented cases of arbitrary execution, degrading and inhuman treatment, and looting of public and private property in the town of Goma.

Rupert Colville is the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office.

"The perpetrators allegedly were soldiers of the Congolese Army (FARDC), and the crimes seem to have been committed for the most part as they were retreating from the fighting in Goma and Sake. UN human rights teams have also received allegations of serious human rights violations, including forced recruitment, mistreatment and arbitrary executions of civilians in areas of Rutshuru territory, stronghold of the M23. We are highly concerned by these events which once again are devastating the lives of civilians in eastern DRC, and we are appalled that yet again women and girls are being targeted by a variety of groups, including the national army that is supposed to protect them. We urge parties to the conflict to ensure strict respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. Further measures should be taken as a matter of priority to identify alleged perpetrators of such violations and to hold them to account."

He says nine government soldiers have been arrested on charges of looting and rape.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva.

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