UN Security Council Urges Justice for Congo Rape Victims

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Agence France-Presse

UN Security Council Urges Justice for Congo Rape Victims

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The United Nations on Monday reported that at least 179 women and children had been raped between July 30 and August 3 in and around the town of Luvungi in Nord-Kivu province, where Rwandan Hutu rebels are active. (AFP)

UNITED NATIONS  – An outraged UN Security Council called
Thursday on the Democratic Republic of Congo to find and punish those
behind a horrific mass rape in the war-torn east of the country.

The United Nations on Monday reported that at least 179 women and
children had been raped between July 30 and August 3 in and around the
town of Luvungi in Nord-Kivu province, where Rwandan Hutu rebels are
active.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that UN peacekeepers
stationed nearby knew the villages were occupied by the rebels on the
dates when the rapes occurred, begging the question why they did not
intervene sooner.

At a special Security Council meeting called by the United States
and France, members criticized the slow response and demanded that
action be taken to ensure such a terrible event never happens again.

The body called on Kinshasa "to swiftly investigate these attacks
and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice," said a
statement from Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin, the current Security
Council president.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had already expressed outrage at
the attacks, which undermined the world body's high-profile efforts to
crack down on civil unrest and sexual violence.

Grilled on the alleged inaction of MONUSCO, the UN's largest
peacekeeping force in the world with 20,000 personnel, Churkin said:
"There was a general feeling that things didn't work the way they should
have worked."

"We are going to go to the bottom of this," he added.

His comments were echoed by US Ambassador Susan Rice, who said: "The
(UN Security Council) Secretariat was clear in acknowledging that
things did not occur as they should have."

Rice said the world body would await answers from Atul Khare,
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, who Ban has
dispatched to Congo to investigate.

Ban's special envoy for issues involving sexual violence, Margot
Wallstroem, has been put in charge of the response to the incident.

Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda on Thursday denied being responsible for the mass rapes.

The FDLR are "in no way involved in these odious actions and takes
umbrage at the baseless accusations launched against them by the
secretary general of the United Nations," the rebels said in a statement
issued in Paris.

Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky has said the rapes were committed
during attacks by the Mai-Mai tribal militia and the FDLR, which has
been based in eastern Congo since after the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

"This is another grave example of both the level of sexual violence
and the insecurity that continue to plague the DRC," Nesirky said on
Tuesday.

Members of the FDLR are accused by Rwanda of taking part in the
genocide 16 years ago, in which 800,000 people were killed, mainly
members of the Tutsi minority, before the extremists fled into Congo
when Tutsi-led forces took power in the Rwandan capital Kigali.

Rape is a weapon of war used against civilians in eastern Congo,
where assaults on villagers are frequently reported and blamed on a
range of armed movements, including Congo's regular army, the FARDC.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, at least 1,244
women reported being raped in the first quarter of 2010, 14 rapes per
day on average.

"This figure, however revolting, still marks spectacular progress in
the struggle against the plague of sexual violence in this country,"
Lambert Mende, the Congolese government spokesman, said Thursday in
Kinshasa.

The United States on Wednesday said it was "deeply concerned" about
the reports of mass rape and would work with the local government and
the United Nations to bring the culprits to justice.

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