UPDATE (15 May 2013): The UN Joint Human Rights Office released a report in May detailing the Congolese army's responsibility for the rape of 97 women and 33 girls in the town of Minova between 15 November and 2 December 2012. Of the 12 officers suspended, only two have been officially charged so far in connection with the rapes. The report cites inadequate training, discipline, and vetting of soldiers as potential reasons for the rapes.
Pressure from the United Nations to take legal action against army soldiers guilty of perpetrating widespread rape in Eastern Congo’s city of Minova last November has resulted in the suspension of 12 army officers for their direct responsibility in the attacks.
The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monusco, began an inquiry earlier this year to investigate the events of last November. The report reveals that army soldiers retreated to the city of Minova following the loss of a battle against M23 fighters in Goma. Once in Minova, soldiers began to attack and loot the city, and under the command of army officers, carried out mass human rights violations including rape. The UN report gives evidence of 126 cases of rape by army soldiers, but a government investigation believes numbers to be much higher.
Investigators are slowly unearthing the harrowing testimonies of soldiers who confess that their superiors ordered them to rape. Individual soldiers state they raped over 50 women, and even more testify to raping children as young as 5 years old. These testimonies will be used to build a legal case against the suspended army officers, which will ultimately take them to trial.
Upon release of the inquiry results, the United Nations has launched a separate investigation in to ongoing rape in Eastern Congo. This new investigation will examine the cases of rape presented from the inquiry and will push Congolese authorities to take appropriate judicial action.
The 12 suspensions and ongoing UN investigation represent a significant step forward in the prosecution of perpetrators of sexual violence in a country where widespread impunity for gender violence remains. These significant steps also reflect the international call to action made at the G8 earlier this month to end the use of rape as a weapon of war and ensure the timely prosecution of perpetrators.
DR Congo officers ‘suspended’ in mass rape inquiry, BBC News, 12 April 2013.
Congo: 12 senior army officers to be charged with mass rapes, The Washington Post, 13 April 2013.