[JURIST] A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Monday found Lt Col Kibibi Mutware guilty of involvement in mass rapes that took place on New Year’s Day and sentenced him to 20 years imprisonment, dismissing him from the military. The court found that Mutware ordered his troops [BBC report] to rape, assault and loot from residents of Fizi. Eight of his troops were also given prison sentences [Reuters report] of between 10 and 20 years and expelled from the army for their involvement in the attack. More than 60 women were raped [Bloomberg report] over a two-day period, and 49 women testified against Mutware and his cohorts. Mutware’s conviction is the first of a commanding officer for rape in eastern DRC. All of the men plan to appeal their convictions.
The DRC has been called 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]. UN representatives alleged that Congolese rebel groups Mai Mai and the Democratic Liberation Force of Rwanda (FDLR) [GlobalSecurity backgrounders] raped between 150 and 200 women and children [NYT report] in a small cluster of villages in eastern DRC between July 30 and August 3 of last year. Human rights have long been a major concern in the DRC. In June, national police chief John Numbi was suspended [JURIST report] as part of the ongoing investigation into the murder of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya. 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. In December 2008, Amnesty International reported that rape and sexual warfare have been employed [JURIST report] by both the DRC military and by rebel forces. In November 2008, MUNOC head Alan Doss [appointment release] condemned [JURIST report] the killing of civilians by militias in the country as war crimes. 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.