17 September 2010In the wake of mass rapes of civilians in the restive far east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Security Council called on the country to take “swift and fair” action to bring the perpetrators to justice. Hundreds of people – including more than two dozen children – were raped by members of armed groups in July and August in the volatile North Kivu province.“The Security Council stresses the primary responsibility of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for ensuring security in its territory and protecting its civilians with respect for the rule of law, human rights and international humanitarian law,” according to a presidential statement read out by Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan of Turkey, which holds the Council’s rotating monthly presidency.The 15-member body also urged DRC authorities to bring an end to impunity, especially for those responsible for gross human rights violations.The fight against impunity, it said, is “an integral part of the urgently-needed reform of the security sector,” encouraging the country to bolster its military capacity, reinforce police training and enhance the justice and corrections systems’ capacity.In today’s statement, the Council called on the Government to assist victims of sexual abuse and to support efforts by civil society groups and others to prevent further violence.Earlier this month, a senior United Nations official dispatched to eastern DRC by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon following the rapes told the Council that he was disappointed that the world body was unable to offer protection to the victims.“While the primary responsibility for protection of civilians lies with the State, its national army and police force, clearly we have also failed. Our actions were not adequate, resulting in unacceptable brutalisation of the population of the population of the villages in the area. We must do better,” said Atul Khare, Assistant Secretary-General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).The UN mission in the DRC, known as MONUSCO, launched Operation Shop Window two weeks ago to enhance the protection of civilians in the areas where the rapes occurred.The mission has reported that the operation has resulted in the arrests of some suspected human rights abusers and a return of many internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes. The peacekeeping force added that as a result of the operation, there has been a growing recognition by illegal armed groups that UN peacekeepers are well-equipped, willing and able to respond vigorously to attacks on civilians.