In ‘Rape Capital of the World,’ 12 Soldiers Convicted of Raping Children
Victims were as young as 18 months old.
It’s a superlative we wish didn’t exist.
The Congolese city known as the “rape capital of the world” — Kavumu — was the site this week of one of the most gruesome rape and abuse trials in recent history. in the world.
Twelve soldiers from a militia group called Djeshi ya Yesu (The Army of Jesus) were convicted of raping dozens of toddlers and young girls as part of a ritual to gain “supernatural” powers in battle, according to The Guardian.
Nearly 50 girls between the ages of 18 months and 11 years old were abducted from their homes and raped or abused by soldiers between 2013 and 2016, according to journalist Lauren Wolfe of Women Under Siege, which first reported the verdict. Many of them suffered devastating injuries.
#KAVUMU UPDATE: Instead of crowds cheering and jeering for Batumike (below) as he entered and left the court each day, today there were cries of joy for the members of the court as they left the proceedings. Video TK. #drc#vaw#rdc#congo#rapepic.twitter.com/EeQnj0RxRv— Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321) December 13, 2017
Global Citizen campaigned to end gender violence and protect girls and women around the world; you can join us in taking action here.
Ten of the soldiers were convicted of crimes against humanity, one of the most serious criminal charges in the world.
#KAVUMU UPDATE: Everyone is tensely waiting for the verdicts to be read. MP Batumike & the fetishist Polepole are seen here reading bibles (B is also a pastor. P is the one who allegedly told them to use the blood of virgin girls.) 2 UN tanks & lots of MONUSCO security present. pic.twitter.com/BnlcKXy1U0— Lauren Wolfe (@Wolfe321) December 13, 2017
The case is considered a seismic moment for law enforcement and policy in the region as authorities had previously ignored complaints from parents about the allegations, according to The Guardian.
Kavumu has been referred to as the “rape capital” since the United Nations Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Swedish politician Margot Wallström, made the claim in 2010, The Guardian reported.
The trial took place in a military court in Kavumu, where a judge heard testimony that soldiers believed that raping young children would protect them because they were told so by a traditional healer who advised the group’s leader, Federic Batumike.
“It’s unprecedented, for who Batumike was: a very powerful provincial MP, with his group and his financial control,” said Karen Naimer of Physicians for Human Rights, a group that worked with doctors, investigators and lawyers to gather evidence of the rapes. “And the collaboration between civil society, doctors and the police will hopefully set precedents.”
Family members of victims wore long clothing and used voice distorters to mask their identities in court, according to the report, for fear of retaliation against them.
Women Under Siege reported that the court ruled that the girls who were victimized should receive $5,000 each, while the relatives of male victims who were killed should receive $15,000. But the court said the government was not responsible, so the families of victims may not receive the money, according to the report.
The soldiers were sentenced to life in prison.