Thursday, February 24, 2011

Landmark Victory for Women in DRC

A groundbreaking measure of justice was achieved Monday in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the nearly fifty women who testified against their rapists. Although the United Nations recorded 11,000 rapes in the DRC in 2010, the rebel militias and government troops who use sexual violence as a tactic-of-war have generally gone unpunished. Thus, the verdict handed down by judges in the military court in Baraka was a landmark.
The officers and soldiers were being tried for crimes which occurred on New Year's Day in the village of Fizi in the eastern province of Kivu. According to doctors, sixty-two women were treated for rape.

Victims, usually too fearful or ashamed to testify, rallied together and dramatically detailed the rampage. According to the Associated Press, one newly married young woman threw her bloody torn clothes on the courtroom floor as evidence. Others accused nearly all the company of 150 soldiers stationed in the village of participating in the crimes.

The moving survivors' accounts had effect, because--in contrast to other atrocities in which perpetrators have been accorded impunity--this time the officers and soldiers were sentenced. The verdicts fell short of what the prosecutor had sought. Instead of the death penalty, the rapists were sentenced to prison.

Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware was sentenced to twenty years in prison and two majors and a second lieutenant to twenty years  for "crimes against humanity by way of rape and other inhuman and terrorist acts."
In addition, three corporals were sentenced to fifteen years and two others to ten years on the same charges. (The court found they had an "insignificant" level of education.) The prosecutor asked for twenty years for these five soldiers.

Welcoming this first sentencing of a commanding officer in such an attack, Roger Meece, the head of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MUNUSCO) said, "The fight against acts of rape, sexual violence, and all other forms of human rights violations ...requires the strict enforcement of the law and the end of impunity."
World News (
Meece's counterpart, Margot Wallstrom, the Secretary-General's Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, lauded the sentences as showing that accountability for sexual violence is possible.
Even from half a world away, we celebrate the verdict. Something in all our hearts cries out for justice. We want the right to prevail and the wrong to fail. More than that, we yearn for wrong to be punished.

Where does our sense of morality, of ought-ness, of justice come from?  Without a holy God, wrong would be arbitrary. Thankfully, there is a such a thing as justice, and in the court of heaven absolutely-just verdicts will be pronounced.

Actually, the promise of ultimate justice should make us all nervous. We should fear what we justly deserve. However, the absolutely Holy One took our punishment, so we need not be afraid. Rather, we can be eternally grateful for the Righteous Judge who lovingly became the criminal, so we can stand acquitted.

(For background on the DRC issue, you can read my back post:

1 comment:

  1. It must be simply terrifying to live under those much more so to come out and testify against the attackers. I am so thankful for their victory and pray it leads to larger victories and a stop to these horrific crimes!