Security officials “routinely” rape women in prisons in DR Congo as punishment for their political activities, a UK-based charity says.
Freedom From Torture said medical reports of 34 women showed many of them had been brutally gang-raped.
The women – who included traders and professionals aged between 18 and 62 – are seeking asylum in the UK.
DR Congo spokesman Lambert Mende said he would respond to the charity’s claims if it gave more details.
In its report, Freedom From Torture said one woman was arrested and raped after organising a protest against rape.
It said another women had “documented 68 scars attributable to torture. Fifty-six of these scars were attributable to a specific instance of gang-rape”.
The group’s Dr Juliet Cohen told the BBC: “There are some striking consistencies in the experiences of sexual violence and torture of the women in this report which strongly suggests that this horrific abuse is being routinely carried out in prisons in the DRC.”
‘Not human beings’
DR Congo is often dubbed the “rape capital of the world”, with rights groups saying that rape and sexual violence has become a weapon of war since conflict broke out in the early 1990s.
In May, two soldiers were convicted of rape by a military court in eastern DR Congo, where numerous armed groups still operate.
Thirteen other officers were cleared of the charge.
Freedom from Torture said women were raped by security force members to stop “women speaking out about politics, human rights and, in some cases, rape itself”.
One woman, named as Faith in the report, said security force members raided her home in early 2013 after she organised an anti-rape protest in the western province of Bas Congo, some 2,000km (1,100 miles) from the conflict zones.
“One of them said: ‘You are talking about rape, now we’ll show you what rape means’. They raped my niece in front of us. Then they took me to prison,” she is quoted as saying in the report.
“Now I know, because I have been there, that it is normal for women to be sexually abused in prison… The soldiers and the prison guards, they don’t see women as human beings, they don’t see any value in women. I can’t even remember how many times I was raped,” she added.
Since her arrival in the UK, Faith has been admitted to hospital, Freedom From Torture said.
“She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and she no longer likes being around other people,” it added.