A dozen militiamen in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been jailed for life for raping about 40 children, including a baby, in what was judged a crime against humanity.
They belong to a militia group, Djeshi ya Yesu – the “Army of Jesus” in Swahili – led by South Kivu provincial politician Frederic Batumike.
The children, from babies aged just eight months to a 12-year-old girl, were kidnapped and raped between 2013 and last year.
A crowd gathered in the area before Batumike and the 11 others were convicted by a military tribunal and sentenced to life in prison for the crime against humanity by rape and murder on Wednesday.
The verdict was delivered in a packed courtroom, concluding a trial that began on November 9 in Kavumu, in South Kivu.
The sentences are considered a victory for campaigners fighting a culture of impunity, often said to exist against the pursuit of justice for victims of sexual crimes in the DRC.
“For too long those who commit rape in the DRC have thought they were invincible,” Physicians Against Human Rights, an NGO, said. “Slowly, there are signs that impunity is not inevitable.”
Many of the assaults occurred at night, DRC surgeon Denis Mukwege, who had raised the alarm and reported the crimes, said. AFP