DRC: justice has spoken for the 150 victims of Musenyi
In September 2015, the village of Musenyi experienced absolute horror: a series of rapes and looting, committed by the Congolese army. This week, the colonel at the head of the responsible battalion has been condemned for war crimes by the Military Court of South Kivu.
The attack on Musenyi
Musenyi is a village on the Kalehe territory, in the province of South Kivu, Eastern DRC. From 20 to 22 September 2015, its population was targeted for brutal retaliation during an anti-militia operation by FARDC soldiers. The 3’307th battalion, under the command of Colonel Julius Dhenyo Becker, committed systematic sexual violence and looting against almost 150 civilians.
In spite of the intimidations and threats they faced, the victims were brave enough to denounce these crimes and demand justice. Colonel Becker was arrested at the end of 2015. Preliminary inquiries by both prosecuting authorities and the MONUSCO confirmed the gravity of the crimes: the case was moved to ‘priority’ level.
In 2016, TRIAL International trained and supported the lawyers representing Musenyi’s victims, in order to conduct complementary documentation missions.
Thanks to the proofs thereby gathered, mobile court hearings opened in Musenyi on 14 July 2017, under the jurisdiction of the Military Court of South Kivu. Dozens of victims testified in Court, benefitting from free legal counsel from the TRIAL-led coalition of lawyers and from psychological support.
Condemnation for war crimes
Two weeks into the trial, the criminal responsibility of Colonel Becker was recognized for the war crimes (rape and looting) committed by his men in Musenyi. He received a 10 years prison sentence and will also be required to pay individual compensation to victims, in solidarity with the Congolese State: $10’000 for rape victims and $5’000 for victims of pillage.
“In less than two years, the victims in Musenyi have seen the crimes recognized and the culprit condemned” notes Daniele Perissi, head of TRIAL International’s DRC program. “This verdict represents a victory against impunity in the region, reasserting the message that nobody, not even a high-ranked official, is above the law.”
On 12 June 2018, the appeal hearings were initiated in Bukavu before the Congolese Military High Court.
TRIAL International’s work on cases of international crimes in the DRC is made possible thanks to the support of the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Belgium Development Cooperation.