On Thursday night, the High Military Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (HMC) has confirmed the convictions of all 11 accused in the Kavumu case. In 2017, 11 men were found guilty of crimes against humanity for the rape of dozens of young girls as well as for murder – a decision now confirmed by the country’s highest military instance.

Panzi Foundation and the Mukwege Foundation welcome the appeal judgment delivered by the High Military Court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), confirming the conviction of 11 men, including a provincial lawmaker, who were found guilty in the 2017 Kavumu trial of crimes against humanity for the rape of dozens of young girls as well as for murder. This decision shows that nobody is above the law, regardless of their social or political status.

Panzi Hospital and Foundation, which were founded by Dr Denis Mukwege, have provided a variety of services, including medical care and psycho-social support to the children and the community of Kavumu.

Kavumu appeals verdict clear message against impunity for rape

“The highest military jurisdiction in the DRC has sent a clear and welcome message against impunity” says Daniele Perissi, Head of TRIAL International’s DRC program, an organization which supported the prosecution in Kavumu. “It thereby invites the authorities to apply the law in the broadest way possible, reinforcing a strong and fair justice system, accessible to all.”

Karen Naimer, Director of the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights, shares this conclusion: “This case demonstrates the importance of supporting national processes, which constitute the first and primary avenue for justice, including for international crimes such as those committed in Kavumu.”

Civil society united on the frontline in Kavumu case

The landmark Kavumu trial benefited from collaboration among medical, legal, and law enforcement officials to gather forensic evidence of sexual violence as well as cooperation among the survivors’ families, representatives of civil society, NGOs, and local, national, and regional experts, including PHR, TRIAL International, and Panzi Hospital.

Unfortunately the appeals verdict in the Kavumu case has failed to recognized the failure of the Congolese state to protect civilians. The civil parties had invoked that measures to stop the crimes and prosecute the authors were widely insufficient. The judges have not, unfortunately, followed this argument.

Kavumu rape case: “responsibility of the State is central”

“We are disappointed with this decision: regardless of who the mass crimes are committed by, the responsibility of the State is central. It is all the more important to reiterate this in the DRC, where numerous crimes are committed by militia and non-State groups”, explains Daniele Perissi.

Additionally, the HMC has confirmed the reparations granted to victims in the first decision, but failed to cover all their needs such as access to medical care. Reparations are all too often left out of criminal proceedings, in DRC and elsewhere.

In spite of these shortcomings, the verdict of the Kavumu case constitutes a strong beacon of hope for all the victims of atrocities in Eastern DRC.

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