A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] has sentenced 11 army officers to prison for raping more than 20 women last year, a court official said Thursday. Three officers were sentenced to 15 years in prison [AFP report], while eight others were sentenced in absentia to life. UN envoy on sexual violence, Margot Wallstrom, welcomed the verdict [UN News Centre report] as sign that justice is possible. "This sends a strong signal to all perpetrators of acts of sexual violence that no military commander is beyond the law, including members of a national army," she said. "It also shows that the focus on ending impunity for this type of crimes continues to render concrete results."
Last month, the same court found Lt Col Kibibi Mutware guilty of involvement in mass rapes [JURIST report] that took place on New Year's Day and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment, dismissing him from the military. Eight of his troops were also given prison sentences of between 10 and 20 years and expelled from the army for their involvement in the attack. The DRC has been called the rape capital of the world [BBC report] by senior UN officials. Members of the UN Security Council [official website] expressed "outrage" [statement] last August over a different mass rape in the DRC, calling for justice for the victims [JURIST report]. In December 2009, HRW urged the UN Organization Mission in DR Congo (MUNOC) [official website] to stop funding military groups [JURIST report] in the country that are committing human rights abuses. MONUC has been operating in DRC since 1999. The conflict in the DRC has claimed more than four million lives and has been ongoing since 1983. MONUC has overseen elections and continues to provide armed protection for civilians in certain areas, particularly the North and South Kivus provinces.