The recognition of sexual violence as an international crime at the International Criminal Court (ICC) is a major step forward. The Prosecutor v. Germain Katanga case is the first at the ICC to charge a defendant with crimes of sexual violence and represents a crucial milestone for the ICC and for victims of sexual violence.
This month marks the anniversary of a terrible event: the October 2012 attempt on Dr. Denis Mukwege's life at his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Often referred to as the “rape capital of the world,” the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has yet to break free of its human rights crisis. In March of this year, our team of eight graduate students from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University traveled to the DRC to research access to justice for survivors of sexual violence.
In October, 2012, Dr. Denis Mukwege, founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and renowned gynecological surgeon who has treated thousands of victims of sexual assault and brutal rape, was the target of an assassination attempt in his home in Bukavu. His family was terrorized, and his trusted aide and guard, Joseph Bizimana, was murdered while defending Dr. Mukwege. After the attack, the Mukwege family left the DRC and took refuge in Belgium, and then in the US for several weeks. His absence from Panzi was keenly felt, and his return the cause of much joy. PHR’s DRC Coordinator, Caroline Dauber, describes his homecoming.
It has been less than two weeks since our return from Bukavu, DRC, and now Dr. Denis Mukwege and his family have been the targets of armed violence while defending the rights of victims of sexual violence in the region.