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Execution sought over Congo mass rapes

on 11/01/2019

Prosecutors have demanded the death penalty against five of 11 members of the Democratic Republic of Congo military on trial for raping at least 60 women.

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They asked the military court to sentence another five to 20 years in jail for the mass rapes committed early last month at Fizi in the east of the country.

The 11th defendant is a minor who will be tried by a juvenile court.

The death penalty was demanded for the officers, including a lieutenant colonel, three majors and a junior lieutenant for “crimes against humanity by rape and other forms of inhumane acts and terrorism.”

The prison sentences were sought for five corporals, described as uneducated “delinquents”.

The trial opened in the town of Baraka, 200 kilometres from Bukavu, capital of Sud-Kivu province on February 10.

The defendants insisted that they received rape orders from their leader, Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutwarele, but he denied this, saying that the men had acted alone and he was unable to control them.

Court official Colonel Freddy Mukendi told AFP Wednesday that “evidence collected so far seems to prove that the attacks took place from 7:00 pm (1700 GMT on January 1) to 4:00 am (on January 2), and that practically all unit members (or about 150 men) took part,” he told AFP.

The United Nations said the troops raped the women during an operation to avenge the lynching of one of their colleagues by local residents.

The attacks led UN human rights chief Navy Pillay to urge Kinshasa to ensure a prompt investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

Groups such as the American Bar Association, Avocats Sans Frontieres (Lawyers Without Borders), the UN Development Programme and the UN mission in DR Congo MONUSCO are covering travel expenses for the victims and the court as well as defence lawyer fees.

Congolese troops are regularly accused of rape and looting in the volatile east of the country, which teems with rebel movements and militia.

The death penalty has not been abolished in DR Congo but is systematically commuted to life imprisonment. There have been no executions since President Joseph Kabila came to power in 2001.


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