Three groups of armed militia raped at least 303 civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between July 30 and 2 August, a UN preliminary report into the atrocities said today. "At least 303 civilians were raped, in many cases multiple times," said a statement issued by the UN Joint Human Rights Office on their initial report on the violations. "The known victims include 235 women, 52 girls, 13 men and three boys," detailed the probe, following its visit to 13 affected villages in the Walikale region in Nord-Kivu province. "In addition, at least 923 houses and 42 shops were looted and 116 people were abducted in order to carry out forced labour," it said. Before the probe, the UN officials had noted at least 242 rapes in these villages, and another 260 in other parts of Nord and Sud Kivu provinces. The UN joint mission said that due to serious insecurity in the area, it had not been able to confirm other cases and the exact circumstances surrounding the other incidents. But on the Walikale case, the probe identified "serious shortcomings" on the part of the local Congolese army and police to prevent mass rapes. The local forces' "failure to prevent or stop the attacks was compounded by subsequent failings on the part of MONUSCO forces, which it says had not received any specific training on the protection of civilians, and suffered from a number of operational constraints." The report blamed the rapes on around 200 members of the Mai-Mai Cheka group, the rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda and a group contacted to army deserter Emmanuel Nsengiyumva. Detailing the horrific events, the report said the militia arrived in villages pretending that they wanted to protect the population, before launching their attacks in small groups. Armed with AK47s, grenades and machetes, the militia trapped the population, cutting off all telephone communications and preventing the villagers from raising the alarm. "While one group was looting and raping in a village ... another would be setting ambushes to catch people fleeing through the forest, who were also then raped or taken away as forced labour," it added. "The scale and viciousness of these mass rapes defy belief," said UN human rights chief Navi Pillay. "Even in the eastern part of DRC where rape has been a perennial and massive problem for the past 15 years, this incident stands out because of the extraordinarily cold-blooded and systematic way in which it appears to have been planned and executed." * AFP
UN report reveals details of Congo mass rapes
Three groups of armed militia raped at least 303 civilians in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between July 30 and 2 August, a UN preliminary report into the atrocities says.