The U.N.'s humanitarian chief has called for an end to the rapes plaguing women in war-battered Congo
Jan Egeland, visiting Congo's eastern borderlands where violence continues despite the official end to a 1996-2002 war, said women in the region continue to suffer from sexual violence.
"We must not have any more of these rapes. Sexual abuse and impunity must cease. ... The authors of these acts must be severely punished," he said. "Rape has become gangrene in Congolese society."
The exact number of rapes in Congo isn't known. Hospital officials report treating huge numbers of women for injuries suffered in sex crimes, particularly in the east where militia fighters and Congolese soldiers target civilians.
In July, the United Nations released a report documenting 905 human rights abuses during the first half of 2006, saying more than 80 percent of the violence was committed by members of the nation's security services.
Egeland said all armed factions are bound by the law.
"The armed men in government uniforms or (other) armed groups must know that rape is a crime against humanity that must be punished," Egeland said after visiting a hospital where officials said more than 10,000 women had been treated for sexual violence since 1999. "The civilian population must be protected."
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