Sexual violence in the DRC the subject of special informal meeting
Tuesday, 28 September 2010 13:08


On 27 September 2010 an informal meeting, regarding the mass rape committed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between 30 July and 2 August, took place in parallel to the Human Rights Council's 15th session. Although not part of the formal session of the Council, the side event was announced in the formal Council session and was attended by many government representatives.


A ‘special sitting’ in the Council on sexual violence in the DRC had been in preparation during this session. However, on 24 September the President of the Council said the Minister for Justice and Human Rights of the DRC, who had been in Geneva earlier that week to brief the Council, would not be able to return for such a debate. As a result, the President announced, the special sitting would not take place. However, 48 hours later the informal meeting with high-level UN officials was called. It was unclear who had organised the meeting at such short notice. Because it was convened with virtually no prior notice, only few NGOs were able to attend the meeting.


Although the informal meeting to respond to an urgent development is welcome in itself, it is regrettable how little priority is given by the Council as an institution to addressing serious human rights violations. Regrettably, the Government of the DRC boycotted the meeting, which was otherwise well-attended by States (although primarily EU and other Western States). The President of the Council was initially present at the meeting, but left early on. Only a small number of African countries attended.


The meeting was chaired by Ms Najat M'jid Maalla, the Chair of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It benefitted from the substantive contributions of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem Pillay, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in armed conflict, Ms Margareta Wallström, and a statement read on behalf of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children in armed conflict, Ms Radhika Coomaraswamy.


The meeting was convened in response to the recent mass rapes in in the Walikale region in North Kivu Province of the DRC. Ms Wallström depicted how mass rape and pillaging was used by the FDLR forces and other armed groups as a weapon of war in order to control the area with ‘sexual terror’. She provided a harrowing account of the incident and the effect of widespread sexual violence on the lives of women and the society at large. Ms Wallström will travel to the DRC next week to conduct a further fact-finding mission into these events, and OHCHR is sending a panel of experts to DRC to hold hearings with the victims. She expressed her hope that the perpetrators could be brought to justice through swift action by the DRC authorities with the support of the international community.


The US, EU, Norway, Japan, France, Canada (on behalf of Australia and New Zealand), Switzerland, Austria, Uganda, Sweden and the UK all condemned the widespread practice of mass rapes in the DRC and welcomed the open debate. Uganda, the only African State to speak during the informal meeting, called for a regional initiative to combat the phenomenon of rape used as a weapon of war.


Austria regretted that this debate could not be held in the framework of the official agenda of the Council. Canada (on behalf of Australia and New Zealand) expressed its hope that the topic would be included in the agenda for the 16th Session of the Council. The International Federation for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch called for a thorough inquiry and closer attention by the Council.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 September 2010 13:54
© by The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) 2018