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There has been no marked improvement in the human rights situation in the DRC during the period April to June 2014.
Armed rebel groups continue to commit summary executions and rapes and forcibly recruit children. The Congolese army and police also stand accused of human rights violations including killings, rapes and ill treatment of detainees.
On 5 May a military court in Goma, eastern DRC ruled on cases against 39 Congolese soldiers charged with rape and other grave crimes committed in Minova in November 2012. There are considerable difficulties in prosecuting crimes of sexual violence in conflict situations and, in the case of Minova, despite reports of over 100 victims, only two soldiers were convicted of rape. More must be done to deliver justice to victims, and the Foreign Secretary publicly called on the Congolese authorities to continue their efforts to seek out and prosecute the remaining perpetrators. Senior officials at our Embassy in Kinshasa also raised the issue directly with the Government of the DRC, and EU Heads of Diplomatic Missions accredited to the DRC jointly raised concerns.
On 10 – 13 June, the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and the Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, co-hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London. A senior delegation from the government of the DRC participated in the summit, led by the Congolese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence and Veteran Affairs. At the summit, a special forum was held on DRC, in which the government of the DRC reiterated its commitment to ending impunity for the perpetrators of these barbaric acts and to implementing its national action plan on this issue.
We are working closely with the government of the DRC and authorities to support implementation. We continue to fund the deployment of a police expert in the east to build capacity in collection and storage of forensic evidence. This supports the Department for International Development’s (DFID) wider programme on security sector accountability and police reform, which includes a focus on sex and gender based violence (SGBV). DFID are also providing humanitarian support to survivors of SGBV, and we continue to fund training on human rights and countering sexual violence for new recruits to the DRC armed forces.
At the summit, Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, hosted a roundtable discussion with the DRC senior delegation to discuss progress on the children and armed conflict agenda. The discussion also provided an opportunity to review and share experiences of countries that have successfully put an end to the practice. The DRC ministers committed to working with others to end child recruitment. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office is funding a project, led by War Child, to run a helpline to support vulnerable children affected by conflict and insecurity in eastern DRC. It will reduce the number of children being recruited by armed groups, while helping those already recruited to re-integrate into society following demobilisation.
We continue to urge the government of the DRC to appoint its Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment as soon as possible, so that person can take forward the commitments the government made at the summit.
On 12 June, the Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State for Defence, Phillip Hammond, and Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, launched the UK government’s third National Action Plan on Women, Peace & Security. This sets out our ambition to put women and girls at the centre of all efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, to promote peace and stability, and to prevent and respond to violence. Six priority countries have been identified, including DRC. We are developing an implementation plan, which will be made available to the public later this year.