DRC rapes: Rebels 'must be prosecuted'

2010-09-28 11:14

Geneva - A UN expert pushed Monday for the prosecution of leaders of rebel groups for the mass rape of women in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, saying urgent action was needed "before the trail goes cold".

Margot Wallstrom, UN special representative on the prevention of sexual violence in conflict, singled out the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mai-Mai militia.

"The FDLR has time and again been responsible for grave human rights violations in the DRC. Accountability must begin with the commanders of these and other groups," she said.

"We already have some names, such as Colonel Mayele, the Mai Mai Cheka chief of staff, and Colonel Serafim of FDLR," she told an informal meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.

"These names are starting points and constitute leads by which we may also identify some of the other participants in the mass rapes," she added.

The political and military leadership of the FDLR may also be responsible for failing to prevent subordinates from committing the mass rape of some 303 civilians in 13 villages in the Walikale region in Nord-Kivu province, she said.

"We have a narrow window of opportunity before the trail grows cold and media attention fades," Wallstrom stressed.

Wallstrom, who is travelling to DR Congo on Tuesday, said a key objective of her trip is to train the focus on the perpetrators.

Battle for minerals

The UN conflict envoy had earlier said that the leaders of militias will face war crimes charges.

On Monday, Wallstrom also pointed out that more attention needed to be put on the root cause of the conflict in the region - the battle for the minerals in the region.

Rebel groups have been drawn to Walikale by the region's abundance of minerals, which they are mining illegally and using to finance their movements.

"We must examine this nexus more closely as one of the root causes of the recent atrocities and the protracted conflict in the DRC," said Wallstrom.

"I call on all governments to enact due diligence to track the flow of conflict minerals," she said.

"A global regime along the lines of the Kimberley process... is needed for all the minerals.

Established in 2003, the Kimberley Process certifies the origins of rough diamonds in order to ensure that they are not funding conflict in the world's hot spots.