Geneva - The Democratic Republic of Congo should do more to stop sexual violence and ensure children are not recruited as soldiers, diplomats said on Tuesday during a UN review of the country's rights record.
Diplomats gathered at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva praised DRC for its efforts to rid the country of the rampant sexual violence that has plagued it for two decades, but said more needed to be done.
Many of the 94 state representatives who took the floor expressed particular concern about a continued lack of accountability for rape and other serious crimes.
"The UK remains concerned about the lack of credible investigations leading to a culture of impunity for the worst offences," British representative Ian Duddy told the council.
Namibia's representative called for DRC to "enact specific legislation to eradicate all sexual gender-based incidents of violence and punish the perpetrators of sexual violence".
The Congolese government reported 15 352 cases of sexual violence in seven provinces last year, with data showing that armed groups committed more than half of the assaults.
The country's Justice and Human Rights Minister Wivine Mumba Matipa stressed that her country, which has been wracked by conflict and violence for nearly 20 years, was doing "everything in its power to remedy this dramatic situation".
"War is both a source and an aggravating factor when it comes to sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is used as a weapon to destroy our society," she told the council.
The government has gained more control in the conflict-hit areas in the east since a national army offensive, backed by a special UN brigade, forced the powerful M23 rebel group to lay down its arms last November.
But Matipa stressed that "Rome was not built overnight", calling on states to be patient.
During DRC's Universal Periodic Review, which all 193 UN countries must undergo every four years, Matipa also stressed the progress made in removing children from the ranks of the army and armed groups.
Since her country signed on to a UN action plan in October 2012, it had helped nearly 2 900 children - 365 of them girls - leave armed groups, she said.
While welcoming the country's progress in this area, many of the diplomats in Geneva said child recruitment into such groups remained a serious concern.