New York - The Democratic Republic of Congo army has suspended
12 senior officers over mass rapes in the strife-torn east of the country, a UN
spokesperson said on Thursday.
The action follows pressure from the United Nations which
had threatened to withdraw co-operation with units implicated in 126 rapes in
the eastern town of Minova in November as the army retreated from a rebel
"The Congo [DRC] military has suspended the commanding
officers and deputy commanding officers of two units," the UN peacekeeping
department spokesperson Kieran Dwyer told AFP.
"They have suspended the commanding officers of eight
other units," Dwyer added.
The DRC government informed the United Nations of the action
after the UN mission in the country, Monusco, gave the government one week from
March 25 to act over the Minova rapes. Earlier the UN deadlines set in February
All of the suspended officers are now liable for prosecution
and interviews of victims and suspects have started, Dwyer said, quoting the
"It is a signal of the commitment of the Congolese
authorities, but we need them to follow through and hold accountable those who
carried out these terrible crimes," Dwyer said.
The UN says at least 126 women were raped in and around
Minova from November 20 as the army retreated from an assault by the M23 rebel
movement on the regional capital of Goma. Widespread pillaging was reported.
Human Rights Watch says that over a 10-day period the
soldiers "went on a raping and looting rampage in Minova and neighbouring
The rights group said in a report released in February that
several women told investigators that "soldiers in official army uniform
forced their way into the women's homes at night" demanded money and
carried out the rapes.
The feeble DRC army has been much criticized for its
brutality against civilians and corruption. UN officials said it "melted
away" during the M23 advance last year.
The DRC army is heavily reliant on UN equipment and military
support in its efforts to control the armed groups that hold sway in
resource-rich eastern DRC.