DR Congo rape-care doctor urges UN to help end impunity

Geneva - Democratic Republic of Congo's famous rape-care doctor Denis Mukwege will present a petition to the United Nations Tuesday demanding perpetrators of widespread, horrific sexual abuse in the country to be held accountable.

The petition, signed by nearly 200 organisations, will be handed over to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on International Women's Day, Thierry Michel, a Belgian director behind an acclaimed film about Mukwege said on Monday.

"When a state is not taking its responsibility, the international community must step up," Michel told a conference in Geneva Monday.

The text, entitled "No to Impunity", demands among other things that the UN human rights office publish a long-secret list of 617 suspected perpetrators of rape and other serious human rights abuses in DR Congo between 1993 and 2003.

It also wants the UN to support the creation of a special court, made up mainly of international judges and prosecutors, to try suspected war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country and calls for DNA to be systematically collected in rape cases.

"That could really help us determine who is behind all of these rapes," Mukwege told AFP on the sidelines of the Geneva conference.

Mukwege, known as "Doctor Miracle" due to his surgical skills and dedication to repairing the physical and psychological scars of women shattered by sexual violence, has since 1999 helped some 40,000 rape victims in the Panzi hospital he founded near Bukavu in conflict-riven South Kivu province.

Rival forces fighting for control of the vast mineral riches in eastern DR Congo have used mass rape for decades to terrorise the local population into submission.

Raping babies

"These rapes are a true strategy or war," lamented Mukwege, who describes horrifically violent sexual abuse, in which women's pelvises are smashed, intestines ripped, and foetuses sliced out of their pregnant mother's belly.

The 61-year-old gynaecologist, who won the prestigious Sakharov rights prize in 2014 and has repeatedly been tipped among the favourites to win the Nobel Peace Prize, said the number of rape cases flooding into his hospital have diminished some as fighting has dwindled.

While he was treating 10 rape victims each day a few years ago, that number has fallen to below seven.

But today, victims are increasingly coming from areas not in conflict, Mukwege said, also voicing alarm that "a growing number of children, even babies," are among the victims.

"This is something we are very worried about," he said.

Over just a couple of years, a study showed thousands of children in the region had been raped, more than 200 under the age of five, he said.

He also warned that former child soldiers, who had been brainwashed by armed groups and forced for months or years to do horrifying things, were being enlisted into the army with no psychological support.

"People should not be surprised that [rape] has metastasised in our society," he said.

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