Little Progress in Prosecuting Rapists in DRC

UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, briefing the Human RIghts Council in March on continuing challenges in combatting sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, briefing the Human Rights Council in March on continuing challenges in combatting sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

April 9, 2014 – The national army and police are the main perpetrators of rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo and their crimes mostly go unpunished.

A total of 3,635 victims of sexual violence – mostly rape – were registered by the UN Human Rights Office in DRC between January 2010 and December 2013 and the national army, the FARDC, were responsible for 1,281 incidents, according to a joint report released on Wednesday. Members of the police force and other state agents were responsible for several more incidents.

“Most cases of sexual violence are never investigated or prosecuted, and very few are even reported,” the report states.

Of the incidents reported to the UN, 25 percent were committed against children and the age of victims ranged from 2 to 80.

“Despite increased efforts by Congolese authorities to arrest and try alleged perpetrators of crimes of sexual violence, many such cases never reach a court of law,” the report states. “Of particular concern is the impunity enjoyed by a number of high-ranking officers alleged to be responsible for crimes of sexual violence.”

From July 2011 to December 2013,  there were 187 convictions by military courts for sexual violence, mostly for rape. Seventy-three percent of those convicted were members of the army, 17 percent were from the police and 8 percent were other State agents, the report says.

In some cases, there are out-of-court settlements usually involving the head of the perpetrator’s family and the head of the victim’s family and in most cases the victim is left outside the process, the report says. In other cases, marriage is arranged between the perpetrator and victim, adding a further violation to the victim’s fundamental rights.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz