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Ending immunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Submitted by on 01 Nov 2010 – 09:55

By Veronique De Keyser MEP

A sexual genocide continues to be perpetrated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and with complete impunity.

The United Nations revealed that 1,244 women were raped during the first three months of this year and that at least 200,000 cases of sexual violence have been reported since 1996. The numbers are, in fact, much higher because of under-reporting. This summer, in only 4 days, at least 500 women were gang raped in the province of North Kivu by the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu group, and the Mai Mai military.  On a daily basis, old women, adolescents, children and even babies are raped, torn apart and left for dead. This cruelty is an attack on the dignity and the identity of entire communities, spreading horror and terror.

But the rebels in Eastern Congo are not the only ones to practice this abuse. The Congolese regular armed forces are regularly implicated in such cases; even the United Nations mission has been involved in the past, and today is too often powerless to protect the population.

The international community is urgently calling for an end to the violence, the impunity and the human right abuses committed on a daily basis. Various measures-legislation, guidelines, and sanctions-have been put into place by the Congolese government. President Kabila has declared a zero tolerance policy regarding violence against women; projects for the reform of the judiciary system are in progress; the MOMUNSCO, United Nations mission to the Congo, has a new code of conduct.

However, there is great concern that the implementation of these measures will be slow and that they will be unable to stem the violence.  The fact that the notorious criminal Bosco Ntaganda is far from being punished, and enjoys an enviable position in the Congolese forces, show us the “acceptance culture” of human rights violation in DRC. The International Community should take further action in putting pressure on the Congolese government to fight against impunity and corruption in order to consolidate democracy and human rights in the country.

The United Nations has just suspended their logistical aid and operational support to certain units of the Congolese army because these troops supposedly committed atrocities in the Kivu province between May and September 2009. In DRC, rapes are a weapon of war with economic and military ends, since they are mainly committed in mineral rich areas where armed groups are involved in illegal mining. In its October resolution on the failures in the field of protection of human rights and justice in the DRC, the European Parliament calls on the Commission to provide for a legislative initiative inspired by the U.S. law on “mineral conflict “.  This legislation implies that to cut off funds used by the rebel militia to arm themselves, you must strike at the source and therefore stop the militia´s main source of income-the illegal trade.  These minerals are used in the manufacture of objects we use on a daily basis such as computers, mobile phones and even hybrid cars. The American legislation prevents consumers from purchasing high-tech technologies that are manufactured by companies using “blood minerals” and oblige US companies to report the precedence of their mineral purchases to the security Exchange Commission.

Europe should follow this initiative and put into place, with the governments in DRC and neighbouring countries, effective traceability systems and proof of the origin of natural resources.  One cannot imagine that a country as big as the Congo, which has the support of the international community and immense natural resources, continues to allow a sexual genocide within its borders.  Peace is certainly fragile and must be preserved, but not at the price of justice, not at the price of life and the dignity of thousands of women and children.   We can no longer tolerate this impunity.