Washington: The United States praised the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Wednesday for the swift trial and sentencing of nine soldiers for ordering and carrying out mass rapes.
State Department spokesman Philip Crowley hailed the convictions as a "significant milestone" that sent a message that sexual violence would not go unpunished.
"We applaud the DRC government for taking swift and appropriate legal action to arrest and try in a local court the alleged perpetrators, including Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi Mutware and his subordinates," Crowley said.
About 60 women were raped in a night of violence and looting on January 1 in the eastern town of Fizi, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Baraka, where the soldiers were tried.
The convictions were handed down by a military court on Monday.
Mutware, two majors and a second lieutenant were sentenced to 20 years for "crimes against humanity by way of rape and other inhuman and terrorist acts”. The prosecutor had asked for the death sentence.
Three corporals were sentenced to 15 years in prison and two others to 10 years on the same charges. The court found that they had an "insignificant" level of education. The prosecutor wanted 20 years for these five men.
A major also accused of rape was acquitted since the court ruled that no proof had been brought in his case, though the prosecution had demanded the death penalty.