For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the InternationalCriminal Court’s (ICC) landmark decision issued today in the trial of ThomasLubanga Djilo, a leader of a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of theCongo (DRC).
In the Court’s first major judgment, Lubanga was foundguilty of conscripting children under the age of 15 to actively participate inhostilities. This judgment and the charges against Lubanga, while essential forestablishing the crime of enlisting children to serve in armed conflict, failedto address several other crimes for which he should have been charged, includingmass rape.
Tens of thousands of people have endured the horrors of sexualviolence in DRC, a crime that has become a signature of the atrocities thathave gripped the country over the past several years.
“The Lubanga decision marks a major first step toward accountabilityfor the horrors that children have suffered in the DRC conflicts,” said KarenNaimer, Director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, “but tensof thousands of victims who have endured mass rape are still waiting for thosecrimes to be prosecuted effectively.”
“We have spoken with rape survivors in DRC who have sharedstories of torment, shame, physical pain, and unimaginable loss,” said Naimer.“The many men and women who have suffered at the hands of Lubanga and otherslike him also deserve justice for these specific crimes.”
The stigma and security risks surrounding sexual violenceand the hurdles in providing court-admissible evidence make it particularlychallenging to prosecute mass rape. Therefore, response to sexual violence mustbe especially vigorous.
Through its Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones,PHR is working with leaders from the medical, law enforcement, and legalcommunities in DRC and Kenya to help build local networks designed to help improveevidence for local prosecutions and to help support the Court in prosecuting sexualviolence.
“By training people in these communities on the forensiccollection, and documentation of evidence of sexual violence, we hope thatlocal court proceedings will be increasingly effective,” said Naimer. “We alsohope to see the Court increasingly include sexual violence in its charges forwar crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
Survivors of sexual violence struggle for justice, adequatemedical care, and healing. Increased communication and collaboration betweenmedical, law enforcement, and legal professionals can help to create thenecessary conditions to meet these needs for survivors of sexual violence inthe DRC and elsewhere.
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.