DR Congo UN mission trains police on sexual violence

21 August 2008The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is holding training sessions for the vast African nation’s police in a bid to ensure that victims and witnesses of sexual violence are better protected. The training courses were carried out by the human rights branch – which monitors and documents rights abuses across the country – of the mission, known by its French acronym MONUC.Given the high rates of sexual violence in the DRC, international and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have joined forces with the Government to tackle the scourge. Under this “joint initiative” framework, the UN is in charge of the legal and judicial aspects to help victims find justice and to protect their human rights.In a report made public last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that tackling both sexual and gender-based violence poses a “complex challenge” for the DRC.“While data remains imprecise, there are indications that almost one third of new cases reported through the Joint Initiative emanate from North Kivu, primarily from internally displaced persons (IDPs),” he wrote, adding that sexual violence has also been reported to be on the rise in South Kivu.The report also raised concerns about impunity for crimes committed, especially by State agents, especially the police.Nearly 40 police inspectors and investigators in the territories of Beni, Butembo and Lubero in the North Kivu province were educated this month on new laws regarding sexual crimes; procedures for helping victims of such violence; and protection of victims and witnesses, among other topics.MONUC has also trained Government forces, known as FARDC, in child protection, human rights, sexual violence and military justice.In June, close to 1,800 soldiers underwent a course in South Kivu as part of the mission’s zero-tolerance campaign on recruiting children into armed forces.This week-long human rights component was part of a broader 12-week course that also covered military tactics, weapons handling, logistics and professional ethics.To date, MONUC has trained some one dozen FARDC integrated battalions, and it continues to support the efforts of the Congolese Government in the creation of a professional army, with the goal of training 28 FARDC integrated battalions by September 2009.In a June report, MONUC found that FARDC was one of the biggest human rights violators, with its members being accused of rapes, torture, armed robberies, extortion and arbitrary arrests.On completing the training, the troops were deployed in South Kivu, an area which sees frequent attacks from militias and foreign armed groups, to consolidate State authority.

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