What is the extent and impact of the sexual violence perpetrated by government troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)? Why have efforts to stop sexual violence committed by soldiers failed so far? This report from Human Rights Watch looks at sexual violence committed by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC). It finds that sexual violence by the FARDC continues despite the efforts of the government, the international community and Congolese civil society. The DRC’s military justice system is a weak institution and has done little to bring perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.
The FARDC is one of the main perpetrators of sexual violence in the DRC, committing gang rapes, rapes leading to injury or death and abductions. As an example, since its creation in 2006, the 14th brigade has committed many crimes of sexual violence in North and South Kivu. Despite protests by victims, residents, NGOs and even politicians, Congolese military courts have done little to bring those responsible to justice.
Serious efforts have been made to fight sexual violence, including a nationwide campaign to raise awareness and push for an end to impunity. A sexual violence law has come into force, and the International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into crimes, including sexual violence, in the Kivus. The government, donors and NGOs have taken steps, sometimes as part of broader security sector reform, to address the FARDC’s poor human rights record. As a result, the military justice system has made some progress in dealing with sexual violence.
Despite the above efforts, however, the military justice system remains a weak institution:
- Only a small fraction of the total number of acts of sexual violence committed by soldiers has been prosecuted. Access to justice remains difficult.
- Military prosecutions of sexual violence have focused on lower-ranking soldiers. No officer above the rank of captain has been convicted for sexual crimes.
- Military commanders continue to be treated as untouchable by political and military leaders. They continue to protect their soldiers in many instances, obstructing the course of justice.
The Congolese government and its international partners should intensify efforts to prevent and punish sexual crimes by soldiers:
- The government should consider establishing a special chamber to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law. It should professionalise the FARDC and strengthen the military justice system’s response to sexual violence.
- The national assembly should adopt the International Criminal Court (ICC) implementing law into Congolese domestic legislation.
- The UN mission in Congo should organise it troops so that they can effectively protect women and girls against sexual violence. It should avoid cooperating with FARDC units and commanders implicated in serious violations of international humanitarian law.
- International donors should support the establishment of a judicial mechanism to try serious crimes that will not be tried by the ICC. They should introduce benchmarks for justice sector funding and focus on preventing sexual violence in SSR programmes.
- The UN Security Council should take measures to implement Resolution 1820 on sexual violence in armed conflict. It should act against parties responsible for sexual violence or that fail to address sexual violence committed by their members.
- The ICC should enhance the capacity of national courts to prosecute serious crimes that the ICC will not address. Access full text
Source: Human Rights Watch, ‘Soldiers Who Rape, Commanders Who Condone: Sexual Violence and Military Reform in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, Human Rights Watch
Size: 62 pages (778 kB)