(New York, 11 November 2013)
I welcome the announcement by His Excellency President Joseph Kabila of unprecedented measures to combat sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I am especially pleased by the President’s decision, announced on 23 October in his speech to a Congress of both chambers of Parliament, to appoint a Presidential Representative on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment. I urge President Kabila to appoint this senior official as soon as possible, and pledge the full cooperation of the United Nations in support of this crucial role.
Accountability for sexual violence is critical for deterrence and ultimately the prevention of these crimes. Therefore, I commend President Kabila’s call for the creation of Specialized Chambers to prosecute international crimes, which will enhance ongoing efforts to fight against impunity for sexual violence. It is essential that legislators in the DRC speed up the consideration of this issue to pave the way for the establishment of the Chambers. It is my expectation that there will be an increase in the conviction of rapists following the President’s personal call on the Military Prosecutor to step up prosecutions against officers and other ranks suspected of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, including sexual violence crimes.
I also welcome the exclusion of perpetrators of sexual violence crimes from the Presidential Decree of 23 October 2013 granting Collective Pardon to convicted prisoners.
These measures by the President and the Government of the DRC clearly represent a greater commitment and focus to eradicate the scourge of conflict-related sexual violence, and they honour the Joint Communiqué signed between the Government and the United Nations in March 2013. But commitments must be turned to concrete action – action that can and must turn the tide on this unacceptable crime.
I also take this opportunity to congratulate the DRC for the recent security developments in the east of the country, following the end to the conflict with the M23 rebel movement, which not only provide a strong signal to the various armed groups, but also give impetus to ongoing efforts in the fight against sexual violence. I urge President Kabila to ensure that proper screening and vetting take place so that perpetrators of sexual violence and other egregious human rights violations are not integrated into the national security forces.