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War crimes fugitive surrenders to UN peacekeepers in DR Congo; UN advocate urges justice for victims

The United Nations advocate for ending sexual violence in conflict has welcomed the surrender of fugitive rebel leader Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka to the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUSCO.

Mr. Sheka, who the Security Council added to its UN sanctions list after a national warrant was issued for his arrest in 2011, is wanted for crimes related to mass rapes of at least 387 civilians in the eastern DRC during July and August 2010.

He turned himself in yesterday to MONUSCO forces in Mutungo in the North Kivu, after years on the run.

The surrender “signals that the persistent advocacy and engagement of the United Nations and international community, in support of the national authorities, can yield results,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten.

Despite the surrender, Under-Secretary-General Patten noted that the militia Mr. Sheka created and leads, the Nduma defense of Congo (NDC), continues to commit violations including rape, killing and forced recruitment.

“Thousands of women and girls, men and boys in eastern Congo continue to be terrorized by those under Cheka's command, with many still fearing the next attack,” Ms. Patten said.

She called for him and his affiliates to stand trial swiftly and in accordance with due process standards, and that anyone supporting the NDC be sanctioned.

The senior UN official also urged that “overdue” reparations be paid to victims.

The fugitive turned himself in to MONUSCO “in full awareness of the fact that he is wanted by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to stand trial for alleged crimes,” the UN Mission said in a statement.

The mission said that it is committed to supporting the relevant judicial authorities in pursuing criminal prosecutions for all human rights violations, in accordance with the rule of law, and that it has a standing agreement with the DRC government to ensure that all persons in MONUSCO's care who are handed over to the national authorities are treated in accordance with all relevant human rights standards.