Opening of a trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes in South Kivu

23.08.2018 ( Last modified: 13.09.2018 )

On 23 August 2018, the South Kivu military tribunal opened a trial in the town of Kalehe against two leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed group that was operating in the area. The Court will have to decide whether commanders Kabumbre and Rafiki Castro were responsible for the bloody attacks that targeted two villages in South Kivu in May 2012. At the heart of a conflict between militia and armed forces, the survivors of the massacres, supported by TRIAL International, are demanding justice and reparation.

Lumenje and Kamananga, two villages affected by terror

On 5 May 2012, the FDLR attacked the village of Lumenje. 14 people were killed, several wounded. Houses, as well as a primary school were burned to the ground.

Nine days after the tragedy in Lumenje, the FDLR carried out a similar attack in the village of Kamananga. More than thirty people were killed, several wounded. Houses were looted and burned down.

Retaliation threats were found on the victims' bodies

Following both dramatic attacks, a similar note signed by the commanders Castro, Sabimana, Cristophe, and Guillaume was found on the bodies of the victims. The note threatens to retaliate against the civilian population, accusing it of supporting a local militia, Raia Mutomboki.

Procedure

As part of the years-long investigation, 139 victims and witnesses testified.

The first investigation was completed by additional documentation missions undertaken between 2017 and 2018 with the joint expertise of TRIAL International, Witness and eyeWitness.

The collected audiovisual material was added to the evidence. If it is considered admissible, this could create an important precedent in terms of how documentation and investigations are handled in the DRC.

Learn more about the use of audiovisual as a means of proof

Evidence and testimonies collected identified the two defendants: Kabumbre and Rafiki Castro. Both are being held in Bukavu and are being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Context

Following the Peace, Security and Development Conference in North and South Kivu, joint operations were carried out in 2008 by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the Rwandan army, against Democratic Forces of Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). These operations generated strong tensions and the FDLR began to unload on the civilian population, particularly in response to clashes with the Raia Mutomboki. With several million direct and indirect victims since 1994, the conflict in the DRC is the deadliest since the end of the Second World War.