Failure by the Congolese Government to investigate last year’s mass rapes may have been the cause of the new atrocities committed by the army in June this year.
A new mass rape of between 150 and 170 civilians which took place in the village of Nyakiele near the town of Fizi in the east of the country was committed by fighters of a former armed group. The fighters integrated into the Congolese army who deserted from an army training camp and then went on to commit the atrocities. According to Amnesty International, members of this armed group were previously implicated in mass rape in the same area in January 2011.
Amnesty International is now condemning the Congolese Government claiming that the new mass rapes are a result of the government’s failure to bring the human rights abusers to justice.
The reasoning behind their claims are based on the investigations launched by the government into last year’s atrocities where more than 300 women, men, boys and girls were systematically raped in North Kivu that are proceeding slowly.
Erwin van der Borght, Amnesty International’s Director for Africa, said:“The inability of the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring to justice members of its own army and armed groups for crimes under international law, has fostered a culture of impunity, leading to attack after attack against civilians.”
June’s atrocities were, according to local sources, committed by a senior officer of the Congolese army, Colonel Kifaru Niragiye and 150 of his soldiers, after he had learnt he was to be downgraded after a training course at Kananda military training centre in South Kivu.
Niragiye was said to have left the centre on 9 June and then went on to commit rape and to loot in Nyakiele together with his soldiers. They also raided other villages in the area and forced civilians to carry stolen goods.
In January this year, Kifaru’s deputy and eight other men were convicted and jailed by a military court for ‘crimes against humanity’. They were charged for raping at least 60 women in an attack on Fizi town in early January.
Amnesty International now calls for “prompt, thorough, independent and impartial investigations to be conducted into these crimes in accordance with international standards and, where there is sufficient admissible evidence, for those suspected of these crimes to be prosecuted, without applying the death penalty,” the NGO stated in a report.
The NGO also called for the Congolese Government to take more effective measures in order to immediately ensure the protection of victims and witnesses during and after the investigations. Amnesty urged that the government must also provide medical and trauma counselling to the victims without delay.