Congolese troops fleeing the M23 rebels last November molested at least 97 women and 33 girls, some as young as 6, a UN report has said.
The report, released on Wednesday covered “mass r*pe, killings, and arbitrary executions and violations resulting from widespread looting,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.
UN Joint Human Rights Office said in a report that most of the molestation took place over November 22-23 in the eastern Congo town of Minova.
“One or two of the soldiers would leave with the looted goods and at least one would stand guard as the remaining (Congolese) soldiers raped women and girls in the house. Victims were threatened with death if they shouted; some were raped at gunpoint. Most victims were raped by more than one soldier,” the report stated.
“The victims included 33 girls aged between 6 and 17,” Nesirky said.
During the rebel occupation of the towns of Goma and Sake, the M23 “perpetrated serious violations of human law and gross human rights violations,” Nesirky said, including at least 59 cases of s*xual violence.
The report says 11 Congolese soldiers have been arrested by the Congolese military prosecutor’s office, “including two for murder, but only two for related cases of r*pe.” The other charges were not specified.
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, have been suspended, the UN said.
Military magistrates from both North Kivu and South Kivu, UN peacekeeping and humanitarian agency staff travelled to Minova and surrounding villages from Feb. 6-13, and “military investigators took testimony from several hundred victims, including a large number of victims of s*xual violence,” the report said.
Head of the UN mission in Congo, Roger Meece, said the investigation “should be pursed in an independent and credible manner.”
“Those responsible for such crimes must know that they will be prosecuted,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said in a statement, calling the s*xual violence outlined in the report “horrifying” in scale and systematic nature.