(Goma) – The trial of a militia leader for mass rape and other grave crimes is crucial for justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka is being prosecuted for crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, and related charges in a trial that began on November 27, 2018 in the eastern city of Goma.
Congolese judicial authorities, with the support of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, should ensure that justice is done in a fair, credible, and impartial manner, and provide victims meaningful redress. The authorities should also rigorously carry out measures to ensure the safety of victims, witnesses, defendants, and others involved in the proceedings.
“Sheka’s trial marks an important moment for justice for thousands of victims of rape and other ghastly crimes in eastern Congo,” said Ida Sawyer, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Ensuring a fair trial for those accused of the most serious crimes is a crucial step in ending the cycles of violence and impunity that have plagued the region for over two decades.”
Between July 30 and August 2, 2010, Sheka’s militia, known as the Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC), and two other armed groups raped at least 387 women, men, girls, and boys in 13 villages along the road from Kibua to Mpofi in eastern Congo’s Walikale territory in North Kivu province, according to a United Nations investigation. The other armed groups include the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and a group made up of Congolese army deserters.
Since Congolese authorities issued an arrest warrant for Sheka in January 2011, Human Rights Watch has documented further abuses by forces under his command. They included the targeted killings of at least 70 civilians, many of whom were hacked to death by machete. In some cases, Sheka’s fighters mutilated the bodies and paraded the body parts around town while chanting ethnic slurs. Sheka’s forces have also raped more women and girls and forcibly recruited scores of young men and boys into their ranks.