GOMA / LONDON ? December 18, 2009 ? A new declaration issued by civil society organizations working with victims of sexual violence in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is calling for an urgent and critical re-evaluation of national and international efforts to address the escalating use of sexual violence as a weapon of war against women and girls in the region.
Rights & Democracy and REDRESS together with Congolese partners SOFEPADI and the Congolese Coalition for Transitional Justice organized this week's Forum on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Violence in the city of Goma, Eastern DRC. Attended by more than 20 civil society organizations, the Forum has highlighted the need for effective steps to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence and to provide its victims with adequate support, assistance and protection. Participants also emphasized that there can be no peace without justice and called for the immediate arrest of Congolese general and former rebel leader, Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes.
During the forum, participants discussed the range of challenges facing victims of sexual violence in their efforts to recover physically and psychologically and their struggle to restore their dignity and to obtain truth, justice and reparations. They evaluated national and international justice processes as well as the range of action plans and national and local initiatives currently under consideration.
?It is essential that a common vision be developed by both national and international actors that take into account the realities facing victims of sexual violence, their immediate needs, their rights and long term goals for the future,? said Gisèle-Eva Côté, Women's Rights Programme Officer at Rights & Democracy, and Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS in a statement. ?Victims need to be consulted regularly and involved in all phases of the decision-making processes that relate to their futures - from the conceptualisation of the problem, to the development of strategies, the taking of decisions and their implementation. We must start talking to victims and listening to what they have to say.?
In addition, existing services for victims and the continuing gap between them and victims' actual needs were reviewed. The Forum also considered the underlying structures of violence and social inequalities that continue to place women and girls at risk both in the context of their daily lives and in the heightened context of conflict.
Rights & Democracy and REDRESS encourage all stakeholders and decision makers to pay attention to the Nairobi Declaration on Women's and Girls' Rights to a Remedy and Reparation, and to the Declaration issued by participants of the Goma Forum on the Rights of Victims of Sexual Violence.
For further information, please contact:
Rights and Democracy:
Gisele Eva Cote;