“Governments must draw a red line. Taking action is a matter of political will.”
Oslo (10 December 2018) – In his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, Dr. Denis Mukwege, world-renowned gynecologist, human rights activist and founder of the Panzi Hospital and Foundation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), urged world leaders and citizens to take action against sexual violence in wars. “It’s not just perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their crimes, it is also those who choose to look the other way.”
Dr Mukwege received the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize together with Nadia Murad, a Yezidi activist from northern Iraq, for their efforts to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. In his remarks, he dedicated this honour to survivors of sexual violence in Congo and across the globe. Dr. Mukwege:
“The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to us today will be of value only if it leads to concrete change in the lives of victims of sexual violence all over the world and the restoration of peace in our countries.”
Recognition, support and reparations for sexual violence survivors
He shared his frustration about the high levels of violence in Congo, which increasingly targets babies and children. Since the opening of Panzi Hospital in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his team have treated more than 50,000 victims of sexual violence in Congo by providing not only medical care, but also psychological, legal and livelihood support.
Dr. Mukwege said that with this holistic approach, victims have the potential to turn their suffering into power: “Even if the road to recovery is long and difficult…they can become agents of positive change in society.”
He also pressed for the recognition of sexual violence victims: “I insist on reparations: the measures that give survivors compensation and satisfaction and enable them to start a new life. It is a human right. Dr. Mukwege advocated the establishment of an international reparations fund for victims of wartime sexual violence.
International community must act
Dr. Mukwege called on governments to send clear signals against the use of rape as a method of warfare. “The international community must cease to welcome heads of state who have tolerated or – worse – used sexual violence to gain power.” He implored the international community to refuse visas to the perpetrators, to sanction them, and to bring them to justice in international courts. “Doing the right thing is not difficult”, he said while addressing governments around the world. “It is a matter of political will.”
He says consumers have a role to play, too, since the abundance of natural resources like gold, coltan, cobalt and other minerals necessary for the production of electric products is a cause of the on-going war and extreme violence in east Congo. “When you drive your electric car; when you use your smart phone or admire your jewellery, take a minute to reflect on the human cost of manufacturing these objects,” Dr. Mukwege said. “We all have the power to change the course of history when the beliefs we are fighting for are right.”
Call for peace in Congo
Dr. Mukwege made a strong plea for peace in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 6 million people have been killed during two decades of war. Addressing his fellow citizens he said: “Dear Congolese compatriots, let us have the courage to take our destiny in our own hands. Let us build peace, build our country’s future, and together build a better future for Africa. No one else will do it for us
Dr. Mukwege called on the international community to follow the recommendations made in the Mapping Report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which is “gathering mold in an office drawer in New York.” The 2010 report lists gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. Mukwege explained that as long as the perpetrators remain unpunished and there are no truth-finding and reconciliation efforts in Congo, lasting peace cannot be achieved.
Dr. Mukwege: “With this Nobel Peace Prize, I call on the world to be a witness and I urge you to join us in order to put an end to this suffering that shames our common humanity.”
About Dr. Denis Mukwege
Dr. Denis Mukwege founded Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, South Kivu in 1999 as a centre for maternal health. When war broke out shortly afterwards, his first patients were survivors of rape and extreme sexual violence, whose reproductive organs had been destroyed. These cases quickly became the norm. Today, Dr Mukwege and his team are world-leading experts in the treatment of rape victims. Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation DRC provide medical and psychosocial care, legal assistance and socio-economic support to survivors of sexual violence.
Dr. Mukwege’s approach is amplified in the United States by the Panzi Foundation USA, which provides financial support to Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation DRC and advocates an end to sexual violence in the Congo.
The Dr. Denis Mukwege Foundation supports his international work and aims to end rape as a weapon of war in conflicts worldwide. The Netherlands-based human rights organisation campaigns with members of the Global Survivor Network for their rights and works with governments and other NGOs to improve access to care and reparations. Together with its special adviser, Dr. Denis Mukwege, the foundation works for a future where survivors worldwide receive the holistic care they need and obtain reparations; where they have the freedom to speak out and to organise globally to end wartime sexual violence.