Geneva - France's First Lady Valerie Trierweiler on
Thursday, urged the international community to help bring to justice those
responsible for hundreds of thousands of rapes committed in the Democratic
Republic of Congo (DRC) in the past two decades.
"I want bring an end to the silence surrounding this
tragedy, a tragedy that has been going on for more than 20 years. Nearly 500 000
women have been raped," she lamented.
Speaking at a side event to an ongoing session of the UN
human rights council in Geneva, Trierweiler launched an urgent appeal to help
the women of DRC, often described as "the rape capital of the world”.
In her address before numerous diplomats from western and
African countries, she insisted that "a strong response from the UN Human
Rights Council is necessary to establish a mechanism to protect human
rights" and "fight impunity”.
Trierweiler, who met with UN human rights chief Navi
Pillay before the event, spoke in her capacity as ambassador of the France
Freedom Foundation, which co-hosted the panel discussion with the International
Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
Raping and mutilating women has been turned into a weapon
of war in conflict ravaging eastern DRC, she lamented.
She stressed that the international community could do a
lot to address the problem by simply enacting the many measures and initiatives
it had already agreed upon, adding though that more stringent safeguards were
needed to bring an end to violence inflicted on civilians.
A representative of the UN agency focused on HIV/Aids,
also spoke up at the event, pointing out that around 20% of DRC's rape victims
end up with the deadly virus, and that the babies they give birth to are more
often than not infected as well.
"We hope that your personal involvement will allow
us to create a space for dialogue so we can fight this together," he told
Sexual violence against women in DRC increased sharply
last year as a new rebellion engulfed the region in fresh unrest, with rebels
and army soldiers alike accused of using rape as a weapon against the opposite
More than 5 000 women were raped in the restive eastern
province of North Kivu alone in 2012, according to a local hospital.
Trierweiler's organisation has sent four doctors to DRC,
especially to help train local physicians.