According to human rights activists, at least 170 people have been kidnapped in the vicinity of Virunga National Park in Congo in three years. The victims, many of whom were women, were beaten, tortured, raped and extorted, Human Rights Watch said.
The organization holds criminal gangs responsible for the violence. “The Congolese government must put an end to the terror of these gangs.” In addition, a focal point of the United Nations peacekeeping mission lies in the vicinity of the fields where people are kidnapped. The UN mission must patrol the area and protect civilians, HRW demands.
The victims are said to have been kidnapped in their fields and taken to Virunga Park. There they were tortured and raped, and often threatened with death. Most of them were released after relatives paid a ransom, between $200 and $600.
The kidnappings took place between April 2017 and March 2020, according to HRW. The organization said it spoke to 37 people, mainly survivors but also activists, government representatives, and UN employees.
The UNESCO World Heritage National Park is located in eastern Congo, on the border with Uganda and Rwanda. It is known for the mountain gorillas, which only live in these three countries and are seriously endangered.