Twenty female detainees in the central prison in Goma, a large town in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), were raped during a recent riot, officials have said.
"Twenty female prisoners were raped on Monday [22 June] night during an attempted prison escape by a group of militia sentenced to long terms and jailed in the prison," Oscar Kasangandjo, the public prosecutor in Goma, told IRIN.
According to the UN, some deaths were reported during the incident, and several people were wounded.
The imprisoned ex-militia members had been sentenced for “murder, rape and other grave offences," he said, adding that the leaders of the riot were being detained in a prison within the eighth military command in the region.
The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) appealed to the government to urgently improve prison conditions and beef up security in prisons, especially with regard to the protection of women against sexual violence - “to avoid a repeat of the tragedy” in Goma prison, a MONUC statement said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the incident, describing it as "a grim example of both the prison conditions and the level of sexual violence that plagues the DRC".
Photo: IRIN/Sylvia Spring
Women cook at a centre for victims of sexual violence in Goma. MONUC has appealed to the government to urgently improve prison conditions and beef up security in prisons, especially with regard to the protection of women against sexual violence
Kasangandjo said Goma prison was overcrowded, with very bad living conditions, and currently held at least 600 prisoners, way beyond its design capacity of 150.
At least 90 percent of inmates had been detained on rape and other serious offences, according to Kasangandjo.
The rape of detainees is frequent in the DRC, according to a human rights group, l'Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme (ASADHO).
"Women are frequently raped in Congolese prisons," said Jean Keba, an ASADHO official. "We have registered a case of a woman who was raped in prison. Such things are sometimes organized in cahoots with the prison authorities. Sometimes the men, especially new inmates, are sodomized by prison gangs."
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