Democratic Republic of the Congo

The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2014/181) issued on 13 March 2014.

 

During 2013 the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo recorded 15,352 incidents of sexual and gender-based violence in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (North Kivu, South Kivu, Katanga and Ituri district). Also with reference to 2013, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) investigated and verified 860 cases of sexual violence committed by parties to the conflict, representing an increase of 13 per cent since my previous report on sexual violence in conflict. Non-State armed groups were involved in 71 per cent of cases verified by MONUSCO, while national security forces (mostly the national armed forces (Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo — FARDC) and the national police) were responsible for 29 per cent of cases. This marks a change from my previous report, in which more than 50 per cent of cases were attributed to State actors. Because of the deteriorating security situation and the activities of the Mouvement du 23 mars s (M23), North Kivu Province was most affected by conflict related sexual violence during the reporting period.

 

Armed groups operating in conflict-affected areas effectively condone sexual violence through the encouragement of predatory behaviour. Furthermore, most armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, such as the Mai-Mai Cheka, the Raia Mutomboki, the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda and the Alliance des patriotes pour un Congo libre et souverain, as well as some FARDC elements, are involved to some degree in illicit activities, such as trafficking in conflict minerals and poaching, during which opponents and civilians are targeted, including through the use of sexual violence. The United Nations has also documented ethnically targeted attacks, including sexual violence perpetrated by Mai-Mai Cheka in the area of Pinga, mainly against Nande and Hutu groups. Mai-Mai Simba/Lumumba combatants were responsible for a large number of incidents of sexual violence, mostly involving the abduction of women and girls, looting and forced labour. It has been reported that 46 girls recruited and used by armed groups such as Mai-Mai Simba were used as sexual slaves. Of particular concern is the arrest of former sex slaves by government forces on suspicion of being collaborators of the armed groups that held them captive. For example, in Ituri district, 27 women released from captivity were arrested by FARDC because they were suspected of being Mai-Mai Morgan supporters. Problems of insecurity and access have impeded efforts to document and determine the magnitude of the phenomenon.

 

Almost half of the documented cases of sexual violence during 2013 were rapes of girls. In addition, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recorded 525 incidents of forced marriage in areas affected by armed conflict. Sexual violence against men and boys was most often reported in Rutshuru territory (North Kivu), which was under M23 control for much of 2013. Also in North Kivu, sexual violence was particularly documented during displacement and around camps for internally displaced persons. With United Nations support, the Government has trained police officers working in areas where there are internally displaced persons to escort women and has created an alternative energy working group in North Kivu. In terms of service provision, geographic coverage is uneven and there are significant challenges to equipping remote health facilities, ensuring the adequate quality of the assistance and preventing attacks on facilities by parties to the conflict. In this environment, multisectoral assistance was provided to the 12,247 survivors identified by the United Nations and partners. Psychosocial assistance was provided to 78 per cent of the total (9,533 survivors, including 3,205 minors) within the framework of a programme for providing assistance to survivors of sexual violence. Capacity-building efforts have contributed to improvements in care during 2013, including with respect to HIV/AIDS.

 

Concerning access to justice for survivors, significant gaps exist in the implementation of the legal framework, owing in part to the State’s absence in areas affected by armed conflict. In cases where justice is pursued and perpetrators are required to pay civil damages to survivors, insolvency and a lack of funding for legal assistance and reparations were often a problem. Nonetheless, during 2013, 61 members of the national defence and security forces were sentenced for sexual violence crimes, including 4 members of the national police force, 33 FARDC members of and 24 other State agents. On 16 May, the Prosecutor General of the armed forces issued international arrest warrants and extradition requests for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including sexual violence, to former M23 president Jean-Marie Runinga and M23 colonels Eric Badege, Innocent Zimurinda and Baudouin Ngaruye, all of whom surrendered to Rwandan authorities in 2013. Regarding the Minova case, the operational military court of North Kivu Province held the first hearing in Goma on 20 November 2013. In total, 40 FARDC members, including five high-ranking officers, were accused of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape, murder and looting, committed in and around Minova between 20 November and 4 December 2012.

 

My Special Representative and the Team of Experts visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in March 2013. During that time, they met the President, the Prime Minister and other officials. The visit resulted in the adoption, on 30 March 2013, of a joint communiqué of the Government and the United Nations on combating conflict-related sexual violence. The Team of Experts has been assisting the Government to develop an implementation plan in line with the communiqué (see para. 89). In October 2013, my Special Representative and the Executive Director of UNFPA conducted a joint follow-up visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and met senior government officials, including the Prime Minister. My Special Representative held discussions with the Minister of Defence and addressed a special session of the Senate on sexual violence. On 23 October, the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, announced his intention to appoint a presidential representative on sexual violence and child recruitment to lead the Government’s response and liaise with the international community. The President also emphasized zero tolerance for sexual violence, reiterated his continued commitment to fighting impunity for sexual violence and announced the Government’s intention to create special chambers to prosecute alleged perpetrators of grave international crimes, including sexual violence. On 28 November, the Senate voted to create a special commission on conflict-related sexual violence.

 

Recommendation

I commend the Government for the recent commitments made and urge national authorities to implement, as a matter of priority, the measures outlined in the joint communiqué of 30 March 2013 and the subsequent implementation plan, and I encourage donors to support the Government in that regard. I also encourage the President to appoint a presidential representative to lead the Government’s response, in accordance with his announcement.