Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes a Congolese military court’s conviction of Ntabo Ntaberi, whose Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC) militia was responsible for terrorizing communities in Eastern DRC for years.
Sheka was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of war crimes, including murder, rape, sexual slavery, enlisting children under the age of 15, looting, and destruction of property. Among his many atrocities, Sheka and the NDC militia were responsible for systematically raping 387 women, girls, men, and boys across 13 villages in Walikale, eastern DRC over several days in 2010.
Since 2011, PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones has strengthened the capacity of local doctors, nurses, police, lawyers, and judges in DRC to document forensic medical evidence of sexual violence, preserve it in a court-admissible form, and deploy it to prosecute perpetrators. To date, PHR and partners have trained hundreds of Congolese medical, legal, law enforcement, and justice professionals in the proper collection, storage, and transmission of this critical evidence.
The following statement is attributable to Karen Naimer, PHR director of programs, who has led PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones:
“Sheka’s conviction is a milestone for accountability, contributing to the movement to end impunity for sexual violence in DRC and beyond. Sheka’s appalling crimes have caused devastation for countless Congolese, but this successful prosecution offers a modicum of justice for survivors. We applaud the Congolese justice, legal, and medical professionals who have worked for years on this landmark case, and we recognize the tremendous bravery of the survivors and witnesses who testified.”
“Moving forward, Congolese authorities must ensure that the reparations the court awarded to survivors – an essential precursor to accountability and healing – are actually provided by the defendants. Additionally, many of those who were also responsible for these crimes in DRC have yet to be tried – Congolese authorities should do everything in its power to bring other perpetrators to justice. However, we are concerned by the lack of opportunity for defendants to appeal their charges, and the Court process should respect due process rights for all.”
“The NDC militia is still active in the region, and witnesses, survivors, and communities remain under threat. Congolese authorities and the international community must double down on efforts to protect civilians and hold perpetrators accountable.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.