Ending Impunity for Sexual Violence: Will the Fizi Trials Deliver Justice?

This article, originally posted by The Enough Project, has a new resonance in light of the recent attack on Lara Logan in Egypt.

The trial of 11 Congolese soldiers, those accused of raping dozens of women in the town of Fizi, South Kivu on New Year’s Day, is an encouraging first step in ending impunity for sexual violence in eastern Congo. It remains to be seen whether these trials will effectively punish all the perpetrators involved, from the commanding officer to the soldiers who committed the violations. But the fact that they are even taking place sends an overdue message that there will be repercussions for those committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Reports from journalists indicate that the 11 members of the Congolese army taken into custody and charged include Lt. Col. Kibibi Mutware, who is said to have ordered his troops to commit the atrocities, an allegation he denies. The trials are taking place over a 10-day period by a special mobile military court in the town of Barkara, neighboring Fizi. The BBC reported that the U.N. mission in Congo, the American Bar Association, and Lawyers Without Borders are assisting with the proceedings.

Sexual violence has been used as a weapon of war at an astonishingly high rate for over a decade in eastern Congo, with no accountability for those perpetrating these crimes. Abuses have been reported to be carried out by both foreign and Congolese armed groups, including members of the Congolese army who by profession are recruited to protect Congolese civilians. The fact that commanders or soldiers have been able to commit such grave atrocities as a means to intimidate or exert control over civilian populations with no action by the Congolese government until now is both shocking and unacceptable.

Military justice is an essential component to tackling the violent conflict that has been raging in eastern Congo for over a decade. Without military justice, incidents of mass atrocities and rape will continue unabated.

Civil society groups and human rights monitors should follow these trials closely to ensure that justice is delivered to those responsible. These trials could set a strong and legitimate precedent for ending impunity for acts of sexual violence and crimes against humanity, and as such, they will be important to follow.


Related Stories: 

Over A Third of South African Men Admit to Being Rapists

Update: Alleged Rape Victim Charged with Rape

Over 150 Women Gang Raped in the Congo


Photo by: Shira Golding

Post by Sadia Hameed from The Enough Project


Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

Sylvia B. is correct. Patriarchy is the crime. I feel so badly for my sisters who live in countries with conditions such as these. Until women and men are EQUAL in all societies, some men's disregard, disrespect, and strength, will impact badly on women.

Sylvia B.
Sylvia B7 years ago

The problem is the patriarchal structure of most societies tend to be breeding grounds for rapists, the military especially.

Madeline KM
Madeline KM7 years ago

I hate it when I read stories like this, and instead of people suggesting anything to do with fixing the problem, they suggest hurting people even more. It makes me sick and I am so disappointed with all the other women agreeing with this moronic idea. It's like saying that you should beat up a bully, rather than prevent them from becoming a bully in the first place.

I'll be the first to say, Roxane, that is a terrible, stupid idea.

Now, don't start getting angry and thinking that I think these men deserve special privileges. Nothing makes me more angry than rape and it is truly the sickest act a person can suffer.

Still, I am not one to agree with killing people that do bad things, nor cutting off their genitals. I think there are much more creative solutions to just getting revenge after the fact. Roxane, are you going to go out into the Congo and set up a little shack where you offer such services? I think that makes you as pathetic as the men that commit these atrocities.

It would be much more helpful if people could get active in preventing rape from ever occurring than to start hurting people yourselves. Now, I am not making excuses, but you have to realize that for most of these men their lives have been nothing but violence, loss and hardship.

Maybe you should consider what you could do to make situations like this around the world better, rather than stooping to the level of your enemies.

Get with it.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin7 years ago

Roxane Conner: You've got the right idea!

Kathlene Lentz
Kathlene Lentz7 years ago

There are uncivilized people in every corner of the world, but some corners have a lot more of them than others. The Congo appears to be one of those places. I hope that this trial is just the first step in overcoming this trend among the people there.

Tierney G.
Tierney G7 years ago

I agree with Roaxanne Conner .

Bon L.
Bon L7 years ago

Thanks for the info.

Shauna B.
Shauna B7 years ago

In my opinion, there will be no change until those in power address the violence, anger and power hunger mentality in society today. There is also the widespread belief that men are better/stronger/more entitled to things than women are. Once equality is drummed into the minds of everyone, crimes of power will hopefully begin to decrease.
I'm glad the 11 are being brought to justice. Their trial will hopefully prove to rapists the world over that rape and the sexual assault of women will not be tolerated. Rapists also attack men and children, so hopefully the message will be heard by all those who feel they have a right to treat anyone in this horrible way. As for the rapists, medical castration would be a just punishment for their crimes. If they are going to act like dogs, then treat them like dogs. (With apologies to dogs).

Marie W.
Marie W7 years ago

As long as women are not armed and combat trained this is an issue.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

Thanks for the article