For Immediate Release
International Criminal Court Finds Lubanga Guilty of War Crimes
More Work Necessary to End Impunity for Mass Atrocities in DRC
Cambridge, Mass. - 03/14/2012
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) landmark decision issued today in the trial of Thomas Lubanga Djilo, a leader of a rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
In the Court’s first major judgment, Lubanga was found guilty of conscripting children under the age of 15 to actively participate in hostilities. This judgment and the charges against Lubanga, while essential for establishing the crime of enlisting children to serve in armed conflict, failed to address several other crimes for which he should have been charged, including mass rape.
Tens of thousands of people have endured the horrors of sexual violence in DRC, a crime that has become a signature of the atrocities that have gripped the country over the past several years.
“The Lubanga decision marks a major first step toward accountability for the horrors that children have suffered in the DRC conflicts,” said Karen Naimer, Director of PHR’s Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, “but tens of thousands of victims who have endured mass rape are still waiting for those crimes to be prosecuted effectively.”
“We have spoken with rape survivors in DRC who have shared stories of torment, shame, physical pain, and unimaginable loss,” said Naimer. “The many men and women who have suffered at the hands of Lubanga and others like him also deserve justice for these specific crimes.”
The stigma and security risks surrounding sexual violence and the hurdles in providing court-admissible evidence make it particularly challenging to prosecute mass rape. Therefore, response to sexual violence must be especially vigorous.
Through its Program on Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, PHR is working with leaders from the medical, law enforcement, and legal communities in DRC and Kenya to help build local networks designed to help improve evidence for local prosecutions and to help support the Court in prosecuting sexual violence.
“By training people in these communities on the forensic collection, and documentation of evidence of sexual violence, we hope that local court proceedings will be increasingly effective,” said Naimer. “We also hope to see the Court increasingly include sexual violence in its charges for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.”
Survivors of sexual violence struggle for justice, adequate medical care, and healing. Increased communication and collaboration between medical, law enforcement, and legal professionals can help to create the necessary conditions to meet these needs for survivors of sexual violence in the DRC and elsewhere.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.