Death penalties sought in DR Congo rape trial

Prosecutors asked for the death penalty against five of 11 members of the Democratic Republic of Congo military on trial for raping some 60 women.

Last Updated: Feb 19, 2011, 23:54 PM IST

Baraka: Prosecutors on Saturday asked
for the death penalty against five of 11 members of the
Democratic Republic of Congo military on trial for raping some
60 women.

They asked the military court to sentence another five to
20 years in jail for the mass rapes committed early last month
at Fizi in the east of the country.

The 11th defendant is a minor who will be tried by a
juvenile court.

The death penalty was demanded for the officers,
including a lieutenant colonel, three majors and a junior
lieutenant for "crimes against humanity by rape and other
forms of inhumane acts and terrorism."

The prison sentences were sought for five corporals,
described as uneducated "delinquents".

The verdict was expected later today.
The trial opened in the town of Baraka, 200 kilometres
(125 miles) from Bukavu, capital of Sud-Kivu province on
February 10.

The defendants insisted that they received rape orders
from their leader, Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutwarele, but he
denied this, saying that the men had acted alone and he was
unable to control them.

Court official Colonel Freddy Mukendi told AFP Wednesday
that "evidence collected so far seems to prove that the
attacks took place from 7:00 pm (1700 GMT on January 1) to
4:00 am (on January 2), and that practically all unit members
(or about 150 men) took part," he told AFP.

The United Nations said the troops raped the women during
an operation to avenge the lynching of one of their colleagues
by local residents.

The attacks led UN human rights chief Navy Pillay to urge
Kinshasa to ensure a prompt investigation and bring the
perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

Groups such as the American Bar Association, Avocats Sans
Frontieres (Lawyers Without Borders), the UN Development
Programme and the UN mission in DR Congo MONUSCO are covering
travel expenses for the victims and the court as well as
defence lawyer fees.

Congolese troops are regularly accused of rape and
looting in the volatile east of the country, which teems with
rebel movements and militia.

The death penalty has not been abolished in DR Congo but
is systematically commuted to life imprisonment. There have
been no executions since President Joseph Kabila came to power
in 2001.

PTI