For 10 days in 2012, the small village of Minova was the scene of a wave of violence: the villagers were victims of acts of mass rape, murder and pillage. The perpetrators of these atrocities were all members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police (PNC).
This case provoked a national outcry and 39 State officers were brought to trial for it. The officers appeared before the Operational Military Court of North Kivu. In this case, more than 1,000 witnesses joined the procedures as civil parties and more than 200 victims were represented. Despite that, the Operational Military Court handed down a decision that fell well short of the victims’ hopes: only 25 officers were convicted of pillage, and 2 of rape. Twelve officers were acquitted of all charges. Worse still, nearly all the victims lost their cases on the grounds that they were unable to identify the perpetrators, thus eliminating any chance of demanding reparations.
Congolese law does not allow appeals against judgments entered by the Operational Military Court, but two victims, supported by the American Bar Association, did lodge an appeal before the Military High Court for rape. That court has not handed down a decision yet.
In collaboration with the organization REDRESS and the International Centre for Transitional Justice, TRIAL International plans to bring this case before the Human Rights Committee. The Committee could acknowledge the violations committed, and demand that the perpetrators be punished and that reparations be afforded to the victims. In time, this decision could also set a precedent for other victims of serious crimes and sexual violence committed by the armed forces of the State.