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Fri Aug 26 01:49:11 CAT 2016

Nobel prize nominee sounds the alarm about baby rapes in Congo

Sapa-dpa | 26 March, 2015 13:31
Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege attending an award ceremony to receive his 2014 Sakharov Prize at the European Parliament in Strasbourg November 26, 2014.
Image by: VINCENT KESSLER/Reuters / REUTERS

Congo is facing a problem with the rapes of babies, physician and Nobel Prize nominee Denis Mukwege warned Thursday during a visit to the European Parliament.

The gynaecologist runs a hospital in the conflict-battered African country that has treated thousands of victims of rape and sexual violence committed by warring groups.

While the number of women requiring treatment has started to decline, the hospital has been contending with the new phenomenon of young girls being raped, especially babies, Mukwege said.

"Last year, when we started treating these babies, we reached 35 recorded cases that required heavy surgery," he noted.

Only three people were arrested for those acts, Mukwege added. He said there have been incidents in several Congolese provinces, with a 15-month-old child reported dead in one case.

"We are worried," Mukwege told the parliament's human rights subcommittee.

He did not give details on the perpetrators, but underlined that there is a lack of psychological care for former child soldiers in his country.

"Most of them, having committed [violent] acts at the age of 10 or 12, have been conditioned to do harm," Mukwege said. "Even if they return to normal civil life, they have an incapacity to adapt and from time to time perpetrate barbaric acts, atrocities."

The doctor last year received the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. He has also been nominated for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Mukwege survived an assassination attempt in 2012, following a speech at the United Nations in which he slammed armed groups and political leaders in Congo and Rwanda. Mukwege said he received fresh threats after obtaining the Sakharov Prize.

His Panzi Hospital is also embroiled in a tax row with the Congolese government, which Mukwege said has unduly demanded 650,000 euros ($717,000) in taxes.

"It's not reasonable, it's arbitrary, it verges even a bit on what could be considered as a corruption tendency," he said.

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