Dr Congo: Army officers held for rape of 126 women


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The Independent Online

The Kinshasa government has suspended a dozen senior military officers and is interrogating suspects in connection with a mass rape incident in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The UN said 126 women were raped in Minova in November after Congolese army troops fled to the town as so-called M23 rebels briefly captured the nearby provincial capital, Goma.

The UN special envoy to Congo, Roger Meece, told Congolese authorities in a letter sent on 25 March that they had seven days to take action, after earlier UN demands that Congolese authorities prosecute the suspected rapists went unheeded. “The investigations have been launched, including interviews of victims and interrogations of suspects,” said UN peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer. “The commanding officers and deputy commanding officers of two units, as well as the commanding officers of eight other units, have been suspended and put at the disposal of the military prosecutor. Interrogations are ongoing.”

It was not immediately clear how many suspected rapists the Congolese authorities were interrogating.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, known as Monusco, has a mandate to protect civilians and support operations by the government army. There are more than 17,000 UN troops in Congo, a country the size of western Europe.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in December that human rights abuses were reported in and around Minova in November, including the 126 rapes and the killing of two civilians. Mr Nesirky said at the time that two soldiers were charged with rape, while seven more were charged with looting.