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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.

Justice is delivered for the children of Kavumu (December 13, 2017)

In an extraordinary and landmark ruling, 11 Congolese militia members were convicted today of crimes against humanity for murder and the rape of 38 young children. The verdict represents a stunning victory for the victims, their families, their community of Kavumu, where the crimes occurred, for the wide array of organizations that mobilized around them, and also for justice in the DRC.

Landmark Child Rape Case in Congo Goes to Court (November 9, 2017)

Today, in the small village of Kavumu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 18 defendants are set to go on trial for the systematic rape of 46 young children over a period of four years. The case represents a landmark step in the fight against rape in Congo, a country marked by widespread sexual violence for decades. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) – along with TRIAL International, Panzi Hospital, and a host of Congolese partners – has worked to ensure evidence as well as survivors’ testimony will come to light in an open justice proceeding

Joint Statement on Kavumu From PHR, TRIAL International, and Panzi Hospital (November 2, 2017)

In the village of Kavumu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), families once endured the unspeakable: children abducted in the night and raped. Nearly five years after the first attacks and after an international mobilization of supporters, a trial to prosecute the alleged offenders will begin on Monday, November 6. Eighteen suspects will face charges, including a local politician. The trial will be a turning point for the fight against impunity in DRC, and civil society both locally and internationally played a decisive role in bringing about this historic moment.

PHR Calls for Immediate Investigation Into Death of Congolese Doctor (April 21, 2017)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today called for an immediate, impartial investigation into the murder of a Congolese doctor slain at his home on the night of April 13.

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A Victory for Justice in the Congo (December 19, 2017)

In a stunning victory for justice, a Congolese court has convicted 11 men of crimes against humanity and sentenced them to life in prison for the rapes of dozens of little girls over a three-year period in the village of Kavumu, Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Parents of Congolese Child Rape Victims Testify in Landmark Trial (December 11, 2017)

The parents of a group of little Congolese girls who were savagely raped during a three-year reign of terror in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) took the stand today in a landmark trial, where Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has provided technical support in gathering forensic evdience.

Protecting Survivors, Ensuring Justice: Week One of the Kavumu Child Rape Trial (December 1, 2017)

Cloaked from head to toe to shield her identity, the witness was led into the makeshift court room and seated behind a screen. Out of sight of the 18 defendants, she addressed the court.

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.

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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 »