Government soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) raped 14 women between September 20 and 22 while searching for a rebel leader in eastern Congo, according to a report from the human rights office of the U.N. mission in Congo. Millions died in eastern Congo during a war between 1998 and 2003, and the area remains a hotbed of violence where human rights groups claim both government and rebel forces are using rape as a weapon of war. Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said he was unaware of the specific charges but nonetheless condemned the U.N. office for making the information publicly available instead of presenting it to judicial authorities. Jose Maria Aranaz, the director of the U.N.’s Joint Human Rights Office, said that the incident was the worst this year involving Congolese forces, but that he was confident that the Congolese government’s expressed zero-tolerance policy on sexual violence would be enforced. Prosecutions of sexual violence in the DRC have increased in recent years, but convictions remain rare.
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