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03.07.2009 Congo

DR Congo: UN mission speaks out against latest prison break

By UN
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1 July - The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has deplored the second prison break in the country in less than one month.

The incident happened last Friday at the Aru Central Prison in north-eastern Ituri province, Madnodje Mounoubai, spokesperson for the UN mission, known as MONUC, told reporters.

Underscoring how prison conditions at Aru and throughout the DRC are well below international standards, MONUC reiterated its call on Congolese authorities to both improve conditions and bolster security in penitentiaries.

Late last month, nearly two dozen female inmates were raped during an attempted prison break in the North Kivu capital of Goma.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that incident “is a grim example of both the prison conditions and the level of sexual violence that plagues the DRC,” appealing to the Government “to bring to justice those who have committed these crimes and, more generally, to renew efforts to bring an end to the impunity too often enjoyed by perpetrators of sexual violence.”

MONUC is helping to restructure the DRC's prison system by helping the Ministry of Justice consider how to restructure prison administration.

A 10-day workshop currently under way in the capital, Kinshasa, has brought together 50 representatives of Government, academia and civil society, as well as one dozen UN experts.

Harriet Solloway, who heads MONUC's Rule of Law section, said that escapes and mutinies, as well as illness and death, occur regularly, owing to insufficient and often unqualified personnel.

“It is rare for prisons to have a maintenance and operational budget for the prisoners,” she said, with prisons themselves dilapidated.

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