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For Immediate Release

PHR Urges DRC Government to Protect Hospital Director after Violent Attack

Cambridge, MA - 10/25/2012

Physicians for Human Rights has been shocked to learn of a violent attack today at the home of our close colleague and friend, Dr. Denis Mukwege, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. We fear for the safety of Dr. Mukwege, a world-renowned gynecological surgeon who is founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, where he and his staff have helped treat over 30,000 survivors of sexual violence.

Four armed men entered Dr. Mukwege’s home this evening and held several family members at gunpoint while they awaited his return. When he arrived home, they forced him out of his car, shooting in the head and killing Dr. Mukwege's trusted security guard, Joseph Bizimana, who tried to intervene. Dr. Mukwege ducked when the men fired shots at him, and they then drove off in his car, which they shortly abandoned.

Although Dr. Mukwege and his family were not injured, this attempt to terrorize and possibly assassinate him may be linked to his outspoken advocacy for peace and justice. It closely follows a speech he gave at the United Nations last month in which he denounced the country’s 16 years of violent conflict and called for “urgent action to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice.”

“Thousands of Congolese women and girls put at risk following incidents of sexual violence have depended on Dr. Mukwege for their lives and well-being,” said Susannah Sirkin, Deputy Director at PHR. “Dr. Mukwege has served the Congolese people with passion, expertise, and extraordinary dedication. Dr. Mukwege’s safety must be of the utmost priority to the Congolese government.” 

PHR calls on DRC’s government to protect Dr. Mukwege and his family, and on the international community to express its solidarity with him. His many honors for his work with survivors of sexual violence include the UN Human Rights Prize, the Olof Palme Prize, and the Clinton Global Citizen Award. 

PHR’s partnership with Panzi Hospital has been instrumental to the success of our forensic training sessions on sexual violence in conflict zones.

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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