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UN says DRC has taken action on mass rapes in eastern town

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) reported the Congolese government has taken actions to bring to justice the perpetrators of mass rapes committed in the strife-torn east of the country last year, a UN spokesman said here on Friday.

The UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has been notified formally that the Congolese government "has launched investigations and recorded around 400 testimonies from victims, witnesses and suspects," said Eduardo del Buey, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the daily briefing.

The action followed pressure from the mission which in February sent a letter to the chief of staff of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) requesting the formal suspension of support to the units implicated in the rapes.

The United Nations said that 126 women were raped in Minova in November last year after Congolese troops fled to the town as so- called M23 rebels briefly captured the nearby provincial capital of Goma.

According to the investigations conducted over the ensuing three months by MONUSCO in Minova and surrounding villages, two units of the FARDC engaged in the mass rapes and other human violations.

In its notification announced on Friday, the Congolese government said that "several arrests have been made as an interim internal disciplinary measure," said the spokesperson. "The government also informed that a number of officers allegedly involved in these acts have been suspended and put at the disposal of the Military Prosecutor for the purposes of the investigation."

"Among these officers are the commanding officers and deputy commanding officers of the two main battalions suspected of committing these acts, as well as officers of eight other units," he said.

"MONUSCO notes that the suspension of the commanding officers is an important signal of the commitment of the Congolese authorities to hold the perpetrators of these crimes accountable," the spokesperson said. "MONUSCO will continue to monitor the judicial process."

With more than 17,000 military personnel, MONUSCO has a mandate to protect civilians, defend human rights under imminent threat of physical violence and supports operations by the Congolese army.

Philippines News agency

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/asianet/130415/un-says-drc-has-taken-action-mass-rapes-eastern-town