No accountability for sexual crimes in DR Congo

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

Armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo are not being held accountable for sexual crimes according to the UN Human Rights chief.

Ms Navi Pillay said, sexual violence is used as a weapon of war, to intimidate local communities and to punish civilians for real or suspected collaboration with rival forces.

She added that many victims in the DRC are reluctant to come forward for fear of stigmatization and the lack of legal support.

The country's judicial system faces a myriad of challenges including corruption, the lack of well trained judges and insufficient logistical and financial resources to investigate sexual based crimes.

Statistics by the UN peace Keeping mission in DR Congo MONUSCO and the Congolese Ministry of Gender show that over 27,000 people were victims of sexual violence in conflict affected areas between 2011 and 2013.

Ms Pillay highlighted way in which the UN Human rights office was helping to tackle the issue to sexual violence in the country.

"OHCHR has set up five pilot projects in consultation with survivors in Bukavu and Shabunda, in South Kivu province. The projects are implemented through local organizations with the objective of providing assistance to survivors, while informing and encouraging broader reparations programmes. They include the rehabilitation of 'hearing houses', where victims receive psychological support and therapy. The provision of safe houses, to lodge survivors who have nowhere to live free from intimidation or abuse, or who have had to travel to meet their lawyers or testify in court. Other elements include medical insurance; educational support for girl survivors; and economic reintegration kits for survivors, to promote their economic independence and empowerment following training in income-generating activities and coaching in building small business plans."

The High Commissioner called for the full implementation of a proposal made in 2011 to establish a reparations fund to meet the needs of survivors of sexual based violence.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 2:21″

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