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For Immediate Release

Dr. Mukwege’s Planned Return to DRC Shows Extraordinary Courage and Commitment

Cambridge, MA - 01/10/2013

Despite continued grave concerns for his safety, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) supports Dr. Denis Mukwege in his return to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. As he resumes his work treating victims of sexual violence, PHR urges the relevant authorities to secure the safety of this internationally renowned surgeon and human rights champion.

Dr. Mukwege left the DRC more than two months ago after narrowly escaping assassination at his home by unknown assailants who shot to death his loyal household security guard, Joseph Bisimana. Because of the fear generated by the murder attempt and Dr. Mukwege’s absence, many victims of sexual violence have reportedly stopped seeking treatment at Panzi Hospital, where he is founder and medical director as well as a gynecological surgeon. He and his medical team have treated more than 30,000 survivors of sexual violence, many of them victims of the brutal conflicts in eastern Congo and beyond.

“Those of us who know and admire Dr. Mukwege are not surprised at the courage and commitment he continues to show by returning to DRC to care for thousands of horrifically abused women who have nowhere else to turn,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “We urge MONUSCO and the DRC government to make every effort to ensure that he, his family, the hospital staff and their patients are protected and that they are permitted to carry out their important work in peace.”

Dr. Mukwege has announced his intention to return to Bukavu on Monday, Jan. 14. He currently is in Europe following a month-long visit to the United States facilitated by PHR, during which he met with former President Clinton, Senator John Kerry, and a number of UN and US ambassadors.

“The Congolese government must give the utmost priority to the safety of Dr. Mukwege and his family,” said Susannah Sirkin, deputy director at PHR. “Not only are his medical services in great demand among countless women and girls raped or wounded during ongoing violence, but his dedication to his work and his vision for healing the country remain a shining beacon of hope in a land still ravaged by conflict.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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