The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are infamous for the atrocities they inflict on civilians in Eastern DRC – and for the impunity their members enjoy all too often. The tide is turning at last: two of them have been found guilty for the Nzovu massacre.
Nzovu trial: FDLR finally face justice
Who are the FDLR?
A heterogeneous militia composed of several thousand fighters, the FDLR have committed numerous massacres in Eastern DRC. Their crimes include sexual violence, the enrolment of child soldiers, extortion of local taxes and the looting of natural resources.
Highly mobile and operating in the country’s remotest regions, they enjoy considerable impunity. Very few of its members have to this day been brought to justice.
The recent condemnation of two of them for the crimes committed in Nzovu could change the state of things and represent a significant victory against impunity in DRC.
These two FDLR members have participated to the attacks on villages in the Shabunda territory, including Nzovu, between December 2011 and January 2012. These incursions have claimed around forty lives, mainly of women and children. Fifty more victims have been gravely wounded.
Condemnations for war crimes
On 24 February 2017, Jean Bosco Sinzababanza and Victor Dufitimana were condemned to life imprisonment for war crimes, notably murder, sexual violence and seizure of property.
This verdict concludes a two-weeks itinerant trial, in which over a hundred victims were represented by a coalition of lawyers under TRIAL’s coordination.
“We are satisfied of the way the trial unfolded”, says Daniele Perissi, Head of TRIAL’s DRC program. “The amplitude of the crimes and unstable security conditions have made it hard, but the victims were adequately protected and their voice was heard.”
Will the victims be compensated?
The many victims who were represented have been awarded reparations ranging from $5’000 to $25’000, according to the prejudice. The Court ordered that the condemned should pay the price themselves.
Unfortunately, this means that victims may never receive a penny. The culprits probably lack the means to pay for all compensation.
“The Congolese State should have been found civilly liable for the crimes in Nzovu, because it failed to protect civil populations”, explains Daniele Perissi. “That way, it could have chipped in the victims could have received their due”.