Kinshasa – M23 rebels raped more than 60 women and girls during attacks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in November, Amnesty International said on Friday.
The rights organisation said it had gathered testimonies from 35 victims and eyewitnesses and described the acts as “war crimes”.
They “could constitute crimes against humanity”, it added in a statement.
The attacks mostly happened in the settlement of Kishishe, about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.
Since late 2021, M23 rebels have seized swathes of territory in North Kivu province and have neared Goma, prompting hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.
New research by Amnesty International uncovers evidence of mass rapes of women and girls and summary killings of men in Kishishe in eastern DRC.
— Sarah Kimani (@sarahkimani) February 17, 2023
The M23, a Tutsi-led group whose name stands for the “March 23 Movement,” re-emerged from dormancy in November 2021, accusing the DRC of ignoring a promise to integrate its fighters into the army.
It subsequently won a string of victories over state forces.
The DRC accuses its smaller neighbour Rwanda of backing the group, a charge supported by independent UN experts as well as the United States and other western countries.
Rwanda denies the accusation.
The United Nations last week said that M23 rebels had executed at least 171 civilians and raped 27 women and girls in Kishishe and surrounding areas in November.
Amnesty said on Friday that at least 66 women and girls had been raped in the attacks between November 21 and 30.
“Survivors and witnesses told Amnesty International that after taking control of Kishishe, groups of M23 fighters went house-to-house, summarily killing every adult male they found and subjecting scores of women to rape, including gang rape,” the rights group said.
In a three-page document, Amnesty included extracts of harrowing statements it gathered from rape survivors.
One said their attackers accused them of being from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a descendant of the Rwandan Hutu extremist groups that carried out the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
The M23 has increasingly emphasised the FDLR and the danger posed to Congolese Tutsis.