Sabwe Tshibanda – Minova case
24.05.2017 ( Last modified: 28.09.2017 )
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Sabwe Tshibanda is a Second Lieutenant of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).
On 20 November 2012, the M23 rebel movement took over the provincial capital of Goma in North Kivu. FARDC battalions and the Congolese National Police (PNC) were given the order to retreat south to the village of Minova. During ten days, soldiers allegedly raped at least 76 women and girls in Minova and carried out multiple murders and pillage. Tshibanda and one of his comrades, Caporal Kabiona Ruhingiza, are reported to have participated in the mass rape.
The MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, publicly denounced the abuses, an investigation was opened by the South Kivu prosecution office.
On 5 November 2013, the prosecutor of the North Kivu Operational Military Court in Goma issued indictments against 39 State officers of the FARDC, on various charges, including the war crimes of rape and pillage, rape as an ordinary crime, and various military offenses. Tshibanda was charged with the war crime of rape.
On 5 May 2014, the Military Court handed its verdict. Only 25 soldiers were convicted of pillage and violation of military instructions, while only two were convicted of rape: Tshibanda was sentenced to life for rape as a war crime and Ruhingiza was sentenced to 20 years for raping a girl as an ordinary offence. Twelve officers were acquitted of all charges, while one was convicted of pillage. All the victims lost their civil plaints since they were unable to identify their perpetrators.
Congolese law does not allow appeals against judgments entered by the Operational Military Court, but two victims lodged an appeal before the Military High Court for rape.
The Minova trial was the largest rape trial in the history of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. More than 1,000 witnesses joined the procedures as civil parties and more than 200 victims were represented. Until 2006, there was no legal definition of rape under Congolese law and decisions were based on the 19th century Belgian penal code. In 2006, the country passed “the law of shameful acts”, providing a legal definition for the crime of rape.