Acquittal of Minova soldiers : a new insult to victims of sexual violence in the DRC

Press release
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The 5 May acquittal of 36 of the 39 members of the armed forces from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) accused of rape in Minova by the Operational Military Court of North Kivu in Goma is appalling, declared FIDH and its member and partner organisations in the DRC. Our organisations also deplore that the proceedings have been permanently closed.

The verdict was a hurried and botched justice that will further discourage victims of crimes of sexual violence to file complaints", said Karim Lahidji FIDH President.

In November 2012, serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were committed during clashes between the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) and the rebels of the March 23 Movement (M23) in the city of Goma. During its retreat to South Kivu, the FARDC committed mass rapes in Minova. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) report established that at least 135 women and girls were raped.

During the trial, which lasted five months, 190 women had complained of rape.

"The courage of the many women who testified during the trial, despite the undeniable risks to their security, should be recognised", said Julienne Lusenge, SOFEPADI President. "But their courage is equal to today’s disappointment."

"It was a landmark trial of cases of systematic rapes committed by the armed forces. The entire process has raised important questions related to the independence of, and proper administration of, justice. Began very late, the trial was then particularly short", claimed Mr. Sylvain Lumu Mbaya, Executive Secretary of the League of Voters. At the opening of the trial, we already denounced the unconstitutionality of the court proceedings, which prohibits any appeals".

"Three defendants, including a non-commissioned officer were convicted. But the court should have sanctioned the criminal responsibility of the soldiers’ hierarchical superiors. Moreover, the most senior of these soldiers have never been examined and are still in office today", stated Jean Claude Katende, ASADHO President.

"As FIDH and its partners reminded in their last report, major changes are needed to ensure that victims of sexual violence in the DRC finally get justice and reparation. The international community, which largely supported the trial, must also rethink its support for the Congolese judicial system so that it becomes credible and effective, so that it effectively condemns the perpetrators of the most serious crimes, and so that it ensures effective redress for victims. We will continue to work in this direction", asserted Dismas Kitenge, FIDH Vice President and President of Lotus Group.

On this subject, see in particular: DRC : Denial of justice for the victims of sexual crimes

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