News / Africa

Activists Seek More Justice After Congo Rape Sentencing

A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, February 20, 2011
A mass rape victim comforts her son in the town of Fizi, Congo, February 20, 2011
TEXT SIZE - +
Nico Colombant

Civilians, defense lawyers and activists are welcoming the sentencing Monday of an army lieutenant colonel and eight other soldiers in the mass rape of dozens of women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They say, though, it is just a small step in the fight against rampant rape in the war-torn country.

Hundreds of people jeered at the convicted as they were led away in handcuffs outside the makeshift courtroom in the lakeside Congo village of Baraka.

Defense lawyer Therese Kulungu said in her words "the untouchable has been touched." The reactions followed a military court sentence of between 10 and 20 years in prison for those convicted of a mass rape on New Year's Day in the nearby town of Fizi, in the mineral-rich and lawless South Kivu Province.

The main accused was former rebel-leader Lieutenant-Colonel Daniel Kibibi Mutware, who was reintegrated into Congo's army in 2009, as part of long-delayed peace agreements. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for ordering his troops to rape, beat and loot the population of Fizi.

Forty-nine victims of the New Year's Day attack testified in court, and as part of the verdict, the senior judge said they should receive up to $10,000 in compensation from the government.

An activist against rapes in the Congo, Lisa Shannon, has been following the trial from the United States. Several years ago, she visited the area where the trial took place and found staggering statistics.

"It was common in women's groups for half of the women to have been gang raped within the last six months," said Shannon. "I visited villages in the area where 90 percent of the women had been raped. In all of the areas I visited in South Kivu, I did not visit communities that identified higher rates of rape than in that area. It was the highest."

She said women face an impossible choice of being stopped by competing groups of armed men and raped while going to farm their fields, or watching their children starve.

Despite growing attention to the problem, rapes are still reported on a regular basis from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, often committed by government soldiers. The medical charity group Doctors Without Borders said it had received credible reports of 30 new rapes last week in areas near Fizi.

Shannon called the trial an enormous first step in dealing with a total lack of justice and a culture of impunity. She said Congolese officials, activists, judges and defense lawyers cannot be expected to reverse this grim reality on their own.

"They are going to need a lot of help for a long time," said Shannon. "Security sector reform in Congo, building a justice system from the ground up, is an enormous task. It is going to take a long time and an enormous amount of support from the international community."

The United Nations, the U.S.-based Open Society Initiative and lawyer groups such as the American Bar Association and Lawyers without Borders helped pay costs and with logistics during the Baraka trial.

A senior legal adviser with the Open Society group, Kelly Askin, said now that the rule of law has started being enforced domestically she hoped the trial would have an impact on deterring future crimes.

One accused soldier was acquitted, and another believed to be 16 will be tried in a juvenile court. The 11 men brought to the court were the only ones identified by victims, but women at the trial said other rapists are still living in their community, including those involved in the New Year's attack. They said they were still being raped if they left their village.

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid