The Bukavu military court has sentenced a Congolese policeman to 20 years of prison for raping two minors. The girls were assaulted while they were detained at the police station.
On 24 March 2017, Désirée, Victoire, and Renée (real names withheld), all three aged between 12 and 14 years old, were arrested and detained at Bidagwa police station. The first was accused of stealing a phone charger, the other two under suspicion of complicity.
Two policemen were at the station, including Mr. Mulumeoderwa Bahimba Muhiganya, nicknamed “Kadogo”. During the night, while his colleague was asleep, Kadogo went to see the detained. Under the guise that her parents had arrived, he took Désirée out of the cell and raped her. He then did the same to Victoire. Renée managed to escape him, shouting. As the policeman assaulted Désirée a second time, his colleague woke up and realized that the policeman was with the child.
The victims’ unfailing courage
The next day, the head of the police station was informed of the events and he took the three minors to the Katana medical center so that they could be examined. On the same day, Kadogo was arrested, taken into custody, and then transferred to the central prison of Bukavu. He managed to escape from there on 28 July 2017, shortly before the trial started.
The defendant’s function, a representative of the public authorities, could have deterred the young girls and their families from seeking justice. However, displaying unfailing courage, they agreed to face all the obstacles, including being stigmatized.
TRIAL International supported the victims in their quest for justice from April 2017. The organization helped gathering evidence, including the victims’ age and their movements, and collected testimonies. The latter, read to the audience, were essential in preventing further questioning to the young girls, which would have been highly traumatizing for the victims, already very vulnerable.
A victory and another battle
On 10 April 2018 and despite Kadogo’s absence, the garrison military court found him guilty of raping the minors. The court sentenced him to twenty years in prison and ordered his immediate arrest. The Democratic Republic of Congo was found jointly and severally liable for paying 5,000 dollars to each plaintiff by way of damages.
This verdict is a victory for the victims, but other difficulties are already taking shape. Indeed, to date the Congolese State has never paid the compensation due to victims of sexual violence.
For Patient Iraguha, DRC legal advisor at the Bukavu office, a new legal battle now awaits TRIAL and its partners: “We must ensure that the compensation is paid and the sentenced policeman is arrested to prevent the verdict from being a dead letter. Impunity must be fought and stopped through concrete measures.”