The UN Security Council has been urged to consider sanctions against rebel leaders suspected of organizing mass rapes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The deputy head of UN peacekeeping told council members that more than 500 people were raped – including children – by fighters during July and August even though the UN protection force was not far away.
Atul Khare said: “We have also failed. Our actions were not adequate resulting in unacceptable brutalisation of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better.”
Investigators found that 242 people had been raped over several days in a town just 30 kilometres from a UN base in North Kivu.
Seven years after a vicious war ended the DRC still has Hutu and Mai Mai militias roaming the east of the country, and Ugandan rebels in the north.
The UN though also found evidence that some rapes had been committed by Congolese government forces too.
The UN’s special envoy on sexual violence said it was part of a broad pattern of systematic rape and pillage.
Security Council members have urged the Congolese government to establish who carried out these attacks.
But Kinshasa’s ambassador to the UN said sanctions on individual Hutu rebels would have no impact on the forces in the forest of eastern Congo.