13th December 2017: In a landmark ruling, 11 Congolese militia members were convicted today of crimes against humanity for murder and the rape of 37 young children, including toddlers, in Kavumu in eastern DRC. SRT grantees Physicians for Human Rights and TRIAL International provided technical support in the case.
Following 17 days of hearings and witness testimony, the court of Bukavu ruled that the militia members had carried out the rapes under the leadership of the provincial MP Frederic Batumike. The 11 accused who were found guilty of sexual violence, including Batumike, were all sentenced to life imprisonment. In addition to the rape of young girls, the militia members were convicted of membership of an armed group, and the murder of individuals who had criticised the militia’s activities.
The militia group, Djeshi ya Yesu (Army of Jesus), committed the rapes in the belief they would give them supernatural powers to protect them from their enemies.
After years seeking justice, survivors and their families indicated that they were relieved and satisfied by the verdict. Each victim of rape will receive $5,000 in compensation, while the families of murdered individuals have each been awarded $15,000.
Karen Naimer, director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights, said, ‘This trial demonstrated that justice can be served in the Congo, when an investigation is effectively carried out and evidence is methodically collected – even when the accused wield significant power and are highly organized. It is now the responsibility of Congolese authorities to ensure that such exemplary investigative and prosecutorial measures are adopted nationally to rigorously pursue other cases of sexual violence.’
Daniele Perissi, head of the DRC Program at TRIAL International, said, ‘The range of expertise and numerous forms of evidence presented in this case have exposed the militia and its hierarchy. The systematic nature of the crimes was crucial in order for them to be recognized as crimes against humanity.’
Full press release from PHR and TRIAL International: https://trialinternational.org/latest-post/justice-is-delivered-for-the-children-of-
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