Congo (DRC): Thousands of women raped and child soldier recruitment on increase
Posted: 29 September 2008
Urgent measures required to protect women and girls from the continuing blight of sexual violence
For every two children released, five are abducted and forced to be child soldiers, said Amnesty International, in a new report released today on the ongoing conflict in the province of North Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to Amnesty International, as many as half of the former child soldiers who had been reunited to their families in north Kivu may since have been re-recruited by armed groups.
Amnesty International's DRC Researcher, Andrew Philip said:
Child soldiers who attempt to escape are killed or tortured, sometimes in front of other children, to discourage further escapes.
One former child soldier told Amnesty International how two youths were beaten to death in front of him and other child recruits 'as a lesson to all of us not to try to escape':
'[The boys] were brought out of a pit in the ground and presented to us during a training session. [An armed group senior commander] then gave the order to beat them. Two soldiers and a captain pushed them down into the mud. When they tired of kicking them...they beat them with wooden sticks. The punishment lasted 90 minutes, until they died.'
The report also uncovers the extent of continuing physical and sexual abuse of women and children in the conflict, despite government and armed group commitments to bring such atrocities to an end.
Thousands of women and girls have been raped and exposed to other forms of sexual violence. Some women have been abducted and held as sexual slaves.
Andrew Philip continued:
'The human rights situation in North Kivu is appalling. Armed groups and government forces continue to rape women and girls. Even infants and elderly women are among the victims - some of whom have been gang raped.
'Disturbingly, rapes are often committed in public and in front of family members, including children.'
Complete statistics of the scale of rape in North Kivu do not exist. According to December 2007 UN figures, around 350 rape cases are reported every month in North Kivu.
One 16-year-old rape survivor described how she had been abducted by two junior army officers and held captive in an army camp in North Kivu for several days before she was released. In the camp, she was raped nightly by one of the officers.
'The other officers and soldiers in the camp didn't seem to care or be willing to take responsibility', she told Amnesty International. She now suffers flashbacks and persistent headaches.
Earlier this year (June) the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1820 on sexual violence against women and girls. Security Council members expressed concern that this form of violence has become 'systematic and widespread, reaching appalling levels of brutality' and again called on all parties to the DRC conflict to cease such crimes immediately.
Amnesty International UK's Stop Violence Against Women Campaign Manager, Heather Harvey said:
'The law is clear. Rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence should not be used as a weapon of war.
'It's a clear violation of international humanitarian law which dates back to the Geneva Conventions and has been reinforced by UN SC Resolution 1820.'
In its report, Amnesty International issues comprehensive recommendations to the armed groups, DRC government and the international community aimed at stopping human rights abuses.
The recommendations include a call on armed groups to immediately release all children associated with their forces, and measures to end the horrors of sexual violence.
Heather Harvey continued:
'One of the factors leading to a resurgence of any conflict is the distinct failure to adequately address issues affecting survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
'The DRC Government must urgently consult with women and women-led organisations to develop effective mechanisms which would protect women and girls from ongoing sexual violence and restore stability to the community.'
For more information about the Democratic Republic of Congo visit Amnesty International's DRC page