Congo: unsatisfactory verdict for crimes committed in Minova

Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)NewsVictim’s rights

Goma, DR Congo (East), 7 May 2014 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) believe that the ruling passed by the North Kivu Operational Military Court the day before yesterday can only be a first step towards the search for the real culprits of the atrocities committed in the town of Minova in 2012. More than a thousand victims of rape and looting wait for compensation, as well as the truth about who was responsible. This is why the Congolese Government must bring all the culprits, even those who are senior officers, before the ordinary courts.

The ruling passed by the North Kivu Operational Military Court on Monday 5 May relates to the crimes committed by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in Minova, a town situated in the east of the country, and its surroundings at the end of November 2012.

During one night in particular, nearly 200 women were raped and more than 600 houses and shops were ransacked and looted.

For ASF, the ruling announced by the Operational Military Court in Goma is disappointing. Thus, out of the 39 FARDC soldiers accused, only two are senior officers. They were cleared, along with 10 other soldiers, even though neither the facts nor the presence of the FARDC in the area were contested during the case.

Only two defendants were found guilty of rape. “But then who is guilty of the other 195 cases of rape identified during the investigation?” exclaims Hélène Trachez, ASF Head of Mission in DR Congo. “These rape victims will not benefit from any compensation, even though they suffered serious harm…”

In its press release*, ASF raises other issues related to the case, such as the fact that senior officers identified during the investigation have never been brought to justice, the issue of compensation and protection measures for the victims.

It is essential that the investigation continues in order to determine all the real culprits of the events that occurred in the Minova area. As no recourse is possible before the Operational Military Court, these investigations must be taken up by the ordinary courts.

ASF has worked alongside Congolese associations and lawyers since the end of 2013 when the preliminary investigation to identify victims began. It explained to them why their involvement in the trial mattered and facilitated their participation.

In total, 1,016 victims took part in the trial.

Picture : Measures were taken in order to ensure the protection of victims – James Songa © ASF

*only available in French.