An op-ed by Daniele Perissi
Could the ordeal of Lemera’s victims finally end? An unrelated case before African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights may disentangle their situation in unexpected ways.
2009, in the village of Lemera, South Kivu. Seven women, two of which are pregnant, are raped by Congolese soldiers.
November 2014. The NGO REDRESS files a complaint with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). The victim they represent, S.A., was also raped by soldiers.
What do these two events have to do with each other? Perhaps surprisingly, the case of S.A. could be instrumental in obtaining reparations for the victims of Lemera – and many others.
Shedding a light on DRC’s shortcomings
Today, TRIAL submitted an amicus curiae to the ACHPR on the S.A. case. Meaning literally “friend of the Court”, an amicus is a document submitted by an expert outside a legal procedure to guide the judges in their decisions.
There are numerous factual parallels between S.A. and the women in Lemera: they both concern the rape of destitute women in remote villages by the army. In both cases, Congolese courts have granted the victims reparations. And in both cases, despite the judicial ruling, they received absolutely nothing.
TRIAL turned every stone to obtain reparations at domestic level. Two years and thousands of dollars later, all avenues are exhausted and the women have still not received a penny. Their file is blocked at the Ministry of Justice.
This frustrating experience proves the impossibility to obtain compensation from the State, even in the presence of a judicial ruling – supporting REDRESS’ argument before the African Commission.
Reparations are a right, not a privilege
If the African Commission ruled in favor of S.A., it would formally acknowledge the shortcomings of the Congolese justice system. This, in turn, could prompt the national authorities to step up their efforts and redress both S.A. and the victims of Lemera.
This is TRIAL’s first amicus curiae and it embodies one of the NGO’s key fights: the right of victims to access reparations. This vital step towards closure often goes sidelined, and nowhere is it truer than in DRC. With no victim of sexual violence ever redressed, it is high time S.A., the Lemera women and countless other victims obtain their due.
Daniele Perissi, Head of the DRC program
In other countries too, TRIAL fights with victims so they can get redressed. Read about our successes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Nepal.