UN sees 'important' step in suspension of officers implicated in mass rapes

Displaced by fighting, these women queue up for food vouchers in the village of Minova, in Eastern DRC. Photo: WFP/Martin Penner

12 April 2013 – The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suspended for further investigation the commanding officers of two of its battalions implicated in mass rapes and other human rights violations in what the United Nations today called “an important signal of the commitment of the Congolese authorities to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable.”

The UN Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) said it had been notified formally of the actions being taken by the Government to bring to justice the perpetrators of serious human rights violations committed in Minova in the violence-wracked east of the vast country in late November 2012.

Investigations conducted over the ensuing three months by MONUSCO in Minova and surrounding villages found that two units of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) engaged in mass rapes and other human violations, and in February the Mission sent a letter to FARDC's chief of staff requesting the formal suspension of support to these units.

In its notification, announced today, the Government said it had launched investigations and recorded some 400 testimonies from victims, witnesses and suspects. It added that several arrests had been made as an interim internal disciplinary measure, and a number of officers allegedly involved in these acts had been suspended and put at the disposal of the Military Prosecutor for the purposes of the investigation.

Among these officers are the commanding officers and deputy commanding officers of the two main battalions suspected of committing these acts, as well as officers of eight other units.

“MONUSCO notes that the suspension of the commanding officers is an important signal of the commitment of the Congolese authorities to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable,” the Mission said. “MONUSCO will continue to monitor the judicial process.”

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