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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.

Background

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.

Physicians for Human Rights to Host Panels & Film Screening at Global Summit on Sexual Violence (June 4, 2014)

Experts from the medical, law enforcement, and justice fields from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, the United States, and other countries will discuss how these sectors can work together to help collect, document, and preserve forensic evidence of sexual violence and prosecute these cases at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London.

ICC Finds Germain Katanga Guilty of War Crimes, but Acquits Him of Sexual Violence Charges (March 7, 2014)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) today found Germain Katanga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) guilty of war crimes, but acquitted him of sexual offences in the first case that specifically involved these charges.

PHR-Led Bill to Protect Health Workers Introduced (May 16, 2013)

PHR today helped introduce a bill that would protect health workers globally from increasing attacks during times of war and unrest, and ensure they can continue to provide services without fear of violence, retribution, or arrest.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague announces new UK funds to help survivors of rape during a visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo (gov.uk, March 26, 2013)

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, today announced £205,288 ($312,110) in new UK funding to support the work of Physicians for Human Rights working out of the Panzi Hospital in eastern DRC, to help efforts to develop local and national capacity to document and collect evidence of sexual violence.

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Preventing Sexual Assault Requires Stronger Institutions (April 20, 2015)

It is estimated that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be victims of sexual assault during college. As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to an end – marked in April in the United States – I thought it was important to take a deeper look at an issue that profoundly affects those with whom I live and study each day.

No Justice. No Truth. No Reparations. (March 4, 2015)

As we approach International Women's Day and reflect on the goals of our Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, we at Physicians for Human Rights sometimes feel like we are swimming against an inexorable tide of denial and temporizing attitudes.

Overcoming Obstacles to Prosecuting Rape in Kenya and the DRC (February 27, 2015)

This past week, PHR wrapped up a three-day roundtable discussion in Nairobi, Kenya, where we brought together 45 of our colleagues from both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya to discuss successes, challenges, and new opportunities created by our innovative Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones.

The Lasting Effects of Sexual Violence (December 4, 2014)

I remember my feelings of shock and helplessness after learning about traumatic fistula, which – in addition to its debilitating physical symptoms – leads victims to be shunned and isolated from their communities. Traumatic fistulas are common in conflict and post-conflict settings, and are often the result of violent rape coupled with deliberate damage.

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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.

Summary of Roundtable Discussion (June 2014)

PHR convened a Roundtable on Reparations for Survivors of Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown University on February 24, 2014. This report summarizes major points of discussion from this workshop.

A Call to Action for States (June 2014)

The Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones at Physicians for Human Rights urges all states to take important steps to ensure justice and accountability for crimes of sexual violence.

Annual Report 2013 (June 2014)

Physicians for Human Rights' 2013 Annual Report provides a comprehensive overview of our work between July 2012 and June 2013 (PHR’s fiscal year).

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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 »