20 years imprisonment and 42 recognized victims in the Hamakombo case (DRC)
Three years of crimes, over 40 victims, two defendants: the trial of two members of the Raya Mutomboki Hamakombo militia in South Kivu (DRC) ended with a guilty verdict.
Between 2016 and 2019, the Raya Mutomboki Hamakombo group – a faction of the Raya Mutomboki militia led by Bwaale Hamakombo – committed a series of attacks in and around the village of Kambale (South Kivu). The attacks were sometimes targeted, sometimes against entire villages. Some villages were even attacked several times. The aim was to loot from local civilians, but crimes of murder, torture, destruction of property, deprivation of liberty and sexual slavery were also reported. The total count of victims was 42.
During these three years of terror, the Hamakombo group sometimes operated alone, sometimes in coalition with other factions of Raya Mutomboki, notably the Raya Mutomboki Shukuru.
The trial for Raya Mutomboki Hamakombo’s crimes started on 28 September 2020 in mobile court hearings. Two defendants were be in the dock: the deputy leader, Isaac Chabwira Cirabisa, and another militiaman who had been identified by several victims. The commandant himself, Bwaale Hamakombo, had not been apprehended.
On 6 October 2020, the judges found the defendants guilty of all the crimes attested by the victims’ lawyers, including crimes against humanity by murder, sexual slavery, torture, deprivaton of liberty and other inhumane acts. In addition to the 20 years sentence for both militiamen, all 42 victims received a total of 180’000 USD worth of reparations.
Notably, the Congolese State was also found responsible for the crimes, because it had fallen short of its obligation to protect its population. This crucial element could enable victims to access the ordered reparations even if the accused are unable to pay them.
TRIAL International has worked on this case within the Task Force in South Kivu* since 2019. In collaboration with a local NGO, it notably organized a documentation mission in June 2019 and for certain victims to be heard in November 2019. For the trial itself, TRIAL International supported two Congolese lawyers representing the victims, both of whom had received specific training in the prosecution of mass crimes.
* The Task Force for criminal justice in South Kivu is an informal network of international actors who collaborate to support the Congolese judiciary in the investigation and prosecution of mass crimes in DRC.