The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has welcomed the guilty verdicts handed down this week by a military court for rape and other human rights abuses committed by national army personnel in the country’s volatile east.
The verdicts issued on Monday by the mobile court sitting in Baraka marked the first time that a high-ranking commander and several other personnel serving with the Congolese national armed forces (FARDC) were arrested, tried and sentenced for conflict-related sexual violence.
Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware was reportedly sentenced to 20 years in jail after being found guilty of crimes against humanity for sending his troops to rape, beat and loot from the population of Fizi during the night of 1 to 2 January 2011. Judges also sentenced three officers serving under the commander to 20 years and five soldiers to between 10 and 15 years.
Welcoming the action taken by the civilian and military authorities, Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), encouraged them to persevere in ensuring justice for such crimes.
“The fight against acts of rape, sexual violence and all other forms of human rights violations and attack on the physical integrity of persons requires the strict enforcement of the law and the end of impunity,” he stated in a news release.
“This is how we perceive the Baraka trial, and the authorities can always count on our support in their efforts to address those issues.”
MONUSCO, along with the Government and several non-governmental organizations, assisted in the Baraka trial, which was also welcomed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, who said the sentences showed that accountability for sexual violence is possible.