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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.

Conflicts and Crises Spawn Attacks on Health Care Worldwide (May 20, 2015)

Health professionals, facilities, and patients are regularly targeted by violence and restrictive legislation in situations of conflict and civil unrest, according to an online, interactive world map of attacks on health published today by PHR.

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.

More -General News »

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 (May 26, 2015)

PHR's Tech & Human Rights Blog Series is meant to highlight the intersection between technology and human rights, and to examine the increasing role that technology can play in advancing human rights around the world.

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.

More -General Posts »

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).

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 »