(May 8, 2014 – Ottawa) The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is deeply concerned that only two soldiers were convicted of rape during a military court trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in connection with atrocities that occurred in 2012 in South Kivu province.
According to the United Nations, over 130 women were raped after the Congolese army entered the town of Minova in November, 2012. Of the 39 soldiers on trial for the attack, only two were convicted of rape.
The Minova trial was closely watched around the world, with many activists hoping it would mark the beginning of the end of impunity for sexual violence perpetrators in DRC. Survivors of the mass rape in South Kivu courageously testified before the Minova court, disguised in black veils for fear of reprisals, and still struggling with trauma from their attacks.
The Campaign is echoing the frustration being expressed by Congolese activists and survivors that only two soldiers were convicted of rape in this case—and that not all the perpetrators identified by survivors of the South Kivu attack were brought to trial.
“Once again, the Congolese justice system has not made the dignity of victims a priority,” said Julienne Lusenge, a Campaign member and President of SOFEPADI, a coalition of 40 women’s organizations across Eastern DRC.
In spite of ongoing peace processes, widespread sexual violence continues in DRC. A recent United Nations report detailed 3,645 cases of sexual violence against civilians aged two to 80 between January 2010 and December 2013. These attacks were largely committed by government troops and other armed groups.
“The justice system in the DRC must find a way to pursue the truth and conduct additional investigations and prosecution, especially of the higher level officers who were alleged perpetrators but were never brought before the court,” said Susannah Sirkin, Campaign member and Physicians for Human Rights’ International Policy and Partnerships Director.
The Campaign urges the DRC to undertake more detailed investigations of sexual violence reports, prioritize survivors voices at criminal justice proceedings and ensure the inclusion of women in all areas of the court system and ongoing peace processes. We also call on the Congolese government to provide more comprehensive army training and re-integration programing aimed at preventing soldiers from committing rape, during and after their tours of duty. Congolese women are the heart of their communities, not ammunition for warfare.
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The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict is led by the Nobel Peace Laureates of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and an Advisory Committee comprised of 25 organizations working at the international, regional and community levels to stop rape. Since its launch in May 2012, more than 700 organizations from around the world have joined. The Campaign demands urgent and bold political leadership to prevent rape in conflict, to protect civilians and rape survivors, and calls for justice for all—including effective prosecution of those responsible.