Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Prevention of Rape in the Congo Region

Today, I sent the following letter (along with approximately 60 other supporters) to Dutch Ruppersberger, John Sarbanes, Barack Obama, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski:

Dear Representative,

As one of your constituents, I am asking for your attention and action to help PROTECT, PREVENT and RESPOND to the violence and brutal rapes of women and children in Eastern Congo.

I ask you to stress the urgent need for UN (MONUC) troops to intervene to protect women from sexual violence. Protection is also needed to help guard humanitarian and local hospitals who operate as impartial, independent professionals helping displaced and wounded woman.

Recently a broad coalition of Congolese women and survivor groups in eastern Congo publicly denounced rapes in the Congo. Women have already organized a large protest in Goma calling for protection against, and prevention of, further war-related rapes. As a concerned citizen, I am asking you to hear their voice and stand in active solidarity with them, demanding world leaders, and all belligerents in the DRC conflict, to act immediately to stop the violence.

These actions include demonstration via concrete action and public statements reflecting the recent global commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1820 on women, peace and security, that demands the "immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians" and affirming that "rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide."

Action must also include the deployment of UN Peacekeepers (MONUC) to protect women from gang rapes by soldiers. MONUC must intervene to stop rapes. This action by MONUC and the international community would directly support SR Resolution 1820 and international laws that view these war rapes as 'sexual war crimes.

Of the most importance, the creation of a Sexual Violence Rapid Response Unit within MONUC’s forces in the DRC is needed to help coordinate MONUC's and the humanitarian community's timely response to rapes, including helping rape survivors to safely access emergency medical and counseling services from local aid agencies.

Thank you for your leadership and for taking action to help women in Eastern Congo.

LaQuisha Hall

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