UN denounces sexual violence, other serious violations in eastern DRC

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

A new UN report has found that serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were committed in November 2012 during fighting between government forces and rebels of the M23 Movement over the town of Goma in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and during the subsequent retreat of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) to South Kivu province.

The report by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), details victim and witness accounts of mass rape, killings and arbitrary executions, and violations resulting from widespread looting. It noted that particularly systematic and violent abuse was committed by some Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) elements as they retreated from the towns of Goma and Sake in North Kivu province and regrouped in and around the town of Minova in South Kivu.

The UN investigation documented 135 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by FARDC elements in and around the town of Minova as units retreated from the front lines. The victims included 33 girls aged between 6 and 17.

During the period of their occupation of Goma and Sake, M23 combatants also perpetrated serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations. Rebel combatants of the M23 were responsible for at least 59 cases of sexual violence. The UN investigation also documented at least 11 arbitrary executions, recruitment of children, forced labour, cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and looting by M23 combatants.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said "Those responsible for such crimes must know that they will be prosecuted," adding that "The people of the DRC have endured an intolerable level of violence in recent years". She said "In particular, the sexual violence outlined in this report is horrifying, both in its scale and systematic nature".

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1'49"

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