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Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has witnessed some of the world’s highest levels of sexual violence over the last decade and, as a result, has been a focus of global initiatives to prevent, stop, and punish rape in armed conflict.

PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones launched our training and advocacy initiative in eastern DRC in 2011 to help improve skills for forensic documentation, and collection and preservation of evidence of sexual violence.

The Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones partners with Dr. Mukwege, founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, DRC, and his dedicated staff and colleagues. Our partnership works to help strengthen the capacity of local doctors, nurses, police, lawyers, and judges to improve evidence of sexual violence in order to support prosecutions of these crimes. Together with Panzi clinicians, we have been training and mentoring doctors and nurses at Panzi Hospital as well as at other clinics in South Kivu to more effectively document and preserve court-admissible evidence and to improve medical care and treatment for survivors.

Learn more about Dr. Mukwege and Panzi Hospital.


PHR has been documenting human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1997 as a part of its Public Health Effects of Conflict exploration.

In June of 1997 we published our report on Investigations in Eastern Congo and Western Rwanda, released at a hearing sponsored by the US House International Relations Committee. The report outlined the roles of key figures, governments, and policies contributing to political and economic unrest, insecurity, and vulnerability, as well as exposed the killing of 2,000 to 3,000 civilians in Western Rwanda.

PHR Asylum Network volunteer doctors also work with victims of rape and injustice from the DRC, documenting the abuses and violations they've suffered for asylum applications.

PHR Welcomes Arrest of Congolese Official Accused of Leading Militia That Raped Young Girls (June 24, 2016)

This week, officials in the DRC arrested provincial deputy Frederic Batumike Rukembanyi for allegedly leading a militia that is accused of raping and mutilating dozens of young girls and toddlers in the country’s South Kivu province. Members of that militia were also arrested. PHR welcomes these developments as a first step toward justice in a surge of rapes in eastern Congo that has produced few investigations and prosecutions.

ICC Sentences Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo to 18 Years for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity (June 21, 2016)

The International Criminal Court sentenced Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to 18 years in prison for rape, pillage, and murder carried out by troops under his command in the Central African Republic from 2002 to 2003.

In Conflict Zones Worldwide, Medical Facilities and Personnel in 19 Countries Are Under Relentless Attack (May 23, 2016)

In conflict zones around the world, health care workers and facilities are under relentless attack, according to a new report “No Protection, No Respect” from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition.

ICC Finds Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo Guilty of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity (March 21, 2016)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today found Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in his capacity as president and commander-in-chief of the Mouvement de libération du Congo (MLC).

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From Inevitable to Preventable: A Survivor-Centered Approach to Sexual Violence (October 7, 2015)

In both conflict and non-conflict scenarios, women face a daily risk of assaults at home, in the workplace, on the street, and even in college dorms. In addition, victim blaming and other negative responses from first responders is commonplace, leading to underreporting of these crimes.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: Bringing Low-Resourced Areas Out of Darkness (June 9, 2015)

Power cuts are a daily reality of working in low-resourced, conflict-affected countries like the DRC, and are only one of many such hurdles. These challenges are not insurmountable.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: Justin and His Search for Justice (June 3, 2015)

PHR’s new mobile phone application, MediCapt, will be an important tool for Justin and for police officers all over the DRC who are doing their best to secure justice for victims of sexual violence.

Tech & Human Rights Blog Series: From the Exam Room to the Courtroom and the Bumpy Road in Between (May 26, 2015)

The idea was intriguing: create a mobile application that would allow clinicians to document physical findings during medical examinations of sexual violence victims.

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Enhancing a Regional Response to Crimes of Sexual Violence (December 2015)

PHR convened a three-day regional roundtable discussion between February 25 and 27, 2015 at the Lukenya Getaway in Athi River, Kenya. This report summarizes major points of discussion from this workshop.

Banning of Film in DRC Represents Attempt to Silence Survivors of Sexual Violence (September 2015)

PHR strongly condemns a decision by the government of the DRC to ban a film on sexual violence in the country in an attempt to cover up this pervasive issue.

Annual Report 2014 (July 2015)

The 2014 Physicians for Human Rights Annual Report provides a comprehensive overview of our work between July 2013 and June 2014 (our fiscal year).

Prepared Remarks: Assembly of States Parties to the ICC Plenary Panel Session on Cooperation and Sexual and Gender Based Crimes (December 2014)

Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at PHR, attended and presented at the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC Plenary Panel Session on Cooperation and Sexual and Gender Based Crimes on December 11, 2014.

More -General Research »

Featured Expert

Coleen Kivlahan, MD, MSPH

Coleen Kivlahan, MD, MSPH

As a family medicine physician for more than 25 years, Coleen Kivlahan serves the Association of American Medical Colleges as the senior director for health systems innovation. She is an avid volunteer with PHR in the Asylum Program, both as a trainer and medical evaluator, as well as a volunteer medical advisor and lead trainer for the Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones. Read More »