Dozens of women were raped by M23 rebels in a series of attacks between November 21 and 30 in eastern DRC, Amnesty International said on Friday.
Based on the statements of 35 victims and direct witnesses, the human rights organization denounced in a press release what it describes as “war crimes” and which could also constitute “crimes against humanity”.
“At least 66 women and girls” were raped by “the Rwandan-backed armed group M23,” the text says.
According to Amnesty International, the crime occurred mainly in the municipality of Kishishe, about 100 kilometers north of Goma, the capital of more than a million inhabitants of North Kivu, which is now almost completely surrounded by the rebels.
For its part, the United Nations said last week that Kishishe and its surroundings were the scene of attacks in late November that left at least 171 people dead and 27 women and girls raped by the M23 in retaliation for an offensive by armed groups.
“After taking control of Kishishe, M23 fighters went door to door, killing every adult male they found and subjecting dozens of women to rape, including gang rape,” Amnesty said.
One of the rape victims told the NGO she had “counted up to 80 bodies of men killed by M23 soldiers” in a church.
The three-page text contains chilling excerpts from the testimonies of the victims, such as that of Eugénie (first name changed): “They said we were all FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). They separated us from the men and shot them, including my husband and my two sons. Three M23 soldiers then led me behind the church and took turns raping me. I thought I wouldn’t survive.”
The predominantly Tutsi rebellion M23 took up arms again in late 2021 after nearly a decade of exile in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Among their main demands was the elimination of the FDLR, a group formed in Rwanda in 1994 in Congo by Tutsi, the former genocide leaders.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo has accused its neighbor Rwanda of supporting these rebels, which has been confirmed by experts from the UN, the United States and other Western countries, although Kigali denies this.