Army chief condemned for the Mirenzo crimes

22.11.2018 ( Last modified: 03.12.2018 )

In June 2013, three villages in the Kalehe territory (South Kivu) were attacked by soldiers of the Congolese army (FARDC). The commander of that unit, accused of crimes against humanity, has received a life sentence from the Military Tribunal of South Kivu.

On 7 June 2013, at the market square of Katasomwa (Kalehe territory), cross-fire erupted between the soldiers of the FARDC and members of the armed group known as “Raia Mutomobki“ or “angry citizens”. The detention of a young man belonging to the militia flared the violent confrontation, which led to the death of FARDC soldier.

Retaliatory attacks against citizens

Within days, two commanders of the FARDC attacked the villages of Mirenzo, Murangu and Chirimiro, allegedly searching for members of Raia Mutomboki. Major Mabiala Ngoma’s men committed numerous grave crimes against the villagers, including murder, rape and pillage amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Procedure

On 21 November 2018, the trial of Major Mabiala opened before the Military Tribunal of South Kivu. The latter usually holds court at Bukavu, but relocated to conduct its hearings nearer to the crime scene. This practice, known as “mobile courts”, facilitates access to evidence and the participation of victims.

A group of five lawyers are representing 146 identified victims. In collaboration with the Legal Clinic of Panzi and the NGO Lawyers Without Borders, TRIAL has coordinated the training of this group. It has closely monitored their pre-trial work for this case, the collection and analysis of evidence, as well as elaborating a legal strategy.

Decision

On 29 November 2018, the judges have found Major Mabiala guilty of murder, rape, torture, pillage and arson amounting to crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. All participating victims were recognized, which entitles them to the following reparations: 10’000 USD for the victims of murder, rape and torture, and 5’000 USD for the victims of pillage and arson.

Moreover, the Congolese State was condemned in solidum with Major Mabiala. This means that the State itself should pay for the victims’ compensation if the accused is unable to do so.

The work of TRIAL International on this case was conducted under the framework of the Task Force of International Criminal Justice, an informal network of international actors who collaborate to support the work of the Congolese military tribunals in the investigation and prosecution of mass crimes in the DRC.