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Congo military court sentences 13 soldiers to life for Ituri war crimes

[JURIST] A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] has found thirteen soldiers guilty of murdering 30 civilians in the Ituri district [Human Rights Watch backgrounder]. The thirteen were sentenced Monday to life in prison, according to UN sources. Witnesses said the soldiers abducted the civilians and forced them to perform labor; in November of last year, their bodies were discovered in a mass grave. Four of the soldiers were sentenced in absentia, and all were ordered to pay over $300,000 in damages to the families. The same court also found six former members of an Ituri militia guilty of killing two UN observers in 2003. Four were sentenced to life in prison, while the remaining two received 10 and 20 years in prison.

The Ituri area has long been plagued by violence; longstanding conflicts between ethnic Hema and Lendu factions were exacerbated by the Second Congo War [Wikipedia backgrounder], when militia groups received support from the DRC government and from neighboring countries. Violence in the Ituri district has also led the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to bring charges against Congolese militia leader Thomas Lubanga Dyilo [Trial Watch profile; JURIST report]. As founder of the militant Union of Patriotic Congolese [Global Security backgrounder], Lubanga is accused [indictment, PDF; case materials] of enlisting child soldiers [BBC report] in the region. While Lubanga is the only person to be charged internationally with war crimes in the DRC, a Congolese military court recommended in October that three ex-employees of Anvil Mining [corporate website], an Australian company, be tried for complicity [JURIST report] in war crimes committed by Congolese government soldiers in 2004. AFP has more.

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