Democratic Republic of the Congo: UN Urges Renewed Action to Curtail Sexual Violence
Thursday, April 10, 2014 11:00 AM

The United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC) recently held a high-level dialogue on sexual and gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Numerous reports by the UN and non-governmental organizations have documented the prevalence and brutality of rape in the DRC during the past two decades. In the eastern provinces, where armed conflict has raged since 1998, sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war, to intimidate local communities and to punish civilians for real or suspected collaboration with rival forces.
In her address to the session, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay noted that the DRC government tallied 26,339 incidents of rape and other gender-based violence in 2011 and 2012. Zeinab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told the HRC that another 15,352 incidents were counted in 2013, and data indicated that armed groups committed more than half of these assaults.
Key questions addressed during the dialogue were how to minimize stigma via legislation, policies, programs and projects; good practices relating to accountability; and how best to help victims gain justice and reparation. The High Commissioner noted that in 2009 the DRC adopted a National Strategy on Combating Sexual and Gender-based Violence and the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) has been implementing one of the five pillars of this Strategy, namely, the fight against impunity. According to a report issued by the UNJHRO a few weeks after the HRC session, there have been some recent signs of progress. The number of incidents of sexual violence recorded by the UNJHRO, particularly those incidents committed by state agents, decreased significantly in 2013 compared to 2012. In addition, the UNJHRO registered some 187 convictions by military jurisdictions for sexual violence between July 2011 and December 2013, which reflects an increased number of prosecutions and convictions. However, there remain serious obstacles to accountability for crimes of sexual violence. Victims have been reluctant to come forward for fear of stigmatization, while other obstacles relate to problems within the judiciary such as corruption, non-execution of judgments, and the lack of well-trained judges.
Compiled from: Human Rights Council Holds High-Level Dialogue on Combatting Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, The United Nations Office at Geneva (Mar. 25, 2014); Rape still ‘alarmingly prevalent’ in DRC, News24 (Mar. 26, 2014); DRC: Some Progress in the Fight Against Impunity but Rape Still Widespread and Largely Unpunished—UN Report, The United Nations Office at Geneva (April 10, 2014); Margaret Besheer, UN Urges DRC to End Impunity for Rape, Voice of America (April 09, 2014).