, KINSHASA, Jan 20 – At least 50 women were raped in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo by government troops during an operation to avenge the death of one of their colleagues, the UN said on Wednesday.
An earlier toll from Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) put the number of victims at 36 following the mass attack in the town of Fizi in Sud-Kivu province in early January.
OCHA said in a statement that the women were being cared for by organisations including Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).
A spokesman for the Congolese army, Major Vianney Kazarama, put the number of rapes at 14 and said that eight personnel had been disciplined, including a major.
Amnesty International said the events in Fizi "are another telling example of the consequences of the virtual impunity the Congolese forces benefit from.
"The failure to hold the Congolese army to account when they fail to carry out their protection role or commit crimes themselves in turn encourages further violations."
The rights group said it welcomed the initial arrests of 12 officers from the army\’s 43rd sector, as well as investigations by Sud Kivu\’s military prosecutor.
"Such steps must however be taken forward," Amnesty said in a statement.
"More often than not investigations in the DRC are never brought to a conclusion. A recent example of this is the investigation into the mass rapes that occurred in Walikale, North Kivu, in August 2010 which have now stalled."
The Congolese authorities must ensure that those responsible for these violations are held to account through thorough investigations and free and fair trials. No one, regardless of their status, should be above the law."
Rape is frequently reported in eastern Congo and blamed on a range of armed movements, including Congo\’s regular army.