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Congo: Life sentences on soldiers for massive rape

DR Congo: UN welcomes life sentences on soldiers accused of massive rape

Welcoming the first sentencing of army soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for crimes against humanity stemming from massive rape, United Nations officials have called for further investigations to help prosecute other military personnel who may be implicated.

“The court has validated the statute of Rome that created the International Criminal Court (ICC) in July 2002 and stated that massive rape is considered a crime against humanity and liable to life in prison,” UN Organization in the DR of Congo (MONUC) human rights official Luc Henkinbrandt said of the life sentences handed down yesterday against seven officers.

Five other accused were acquitted by the Military Garrison Court in Songo Mboyo in northern DRC, where members of an Armed Forces of the DR Congo (FARDC) battalion, who came from the ex-Liberation Movement of Congo (MLC), in 2003 collectively raped at least 119 women and girls, many less than 18 years old.

“MONUC encourages additional military investigations to help prosecute other military personnel who have not yet been arrested in the framework of this case,” Mr. Henkinbrandt said. In April 2004, a group of MONUC human rights inspectors went to the province of Equateur to investigate the case.

The Court delivered its verdict in the presence of victims who said they were satisfied with the sentences and reparation of damages, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Compensation of between $200 and $500 will be paid to businessmen and villagers who were victims of robbery.

The court acquitted the five other officers on charges of massive rape, crimes against humanity, robbery, incitation to arm, military plot, dissipation of weapons and ammunitions, and usurpation of command because of a lack of evidence.

It declared the Congolese state liable for payment of compensation if the FARDC personnel are unable to pay.

The battalion rebelled against its commanders who were accused of keeping part of army salaries. FARDC personnel then robbed almost all the houses in the villages of Songo-Mboyo and Bongandanga.

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