AN EXHIBITION FEATURING PHOTOGRAPHS BY LYNSEY ADDARIO, MARCUS BLEASDALE, RON HAVIV, AND JAMES NACHTWEY
JUDICIAL RESPONSE to SEXUAL VIOLENCE
Despite the end of the official military conflict in 2003, incidents of sexual violence continue to be reported at alarmingly high rates throughout the DRC. Armed groups and state security forces continue to be identified as the main perpetrators, yet attacks by civilians against young girls, and even babies, are on the rise. Atrocities committed during the war seem to have eroded the social mechanisms that have traditionally inhibited such sexual violence and as one woman’s rights activist explained: “In the past, burglars would rob a house and then leave. Today, they will first rape all the women in the house and then steal.”
Impunity for sexual violence, even with the adoption of strong laws in 2006, remains the rule. The justice system lacks the capacity and the budget to handle even the relatively small number of rape cases that go to trial. Low salaries, poor logistical and physical facilities, and a lack of accountability provide numerous entry points for corruption at all levels and alleged rapists are often unjustly released on bail. Even when sentenced, perpetrators often escape due to widespread bribery and the dilapidated state of prisons. Political interference in the judicial process is common and in the absence of a fair, accessible, and protective justice system, the local population frequently refers cases to traditional authorities. These out of court agreements are often encouraged by local officials and typically involve the transfer of money or cattle from the perpetrator’s family to the victim’s family, or forced marriage between the two. In the face of these harmful trends, government and international support for judicial reform and increasing commitment to women’s rights by the government must continue to be a strong focus.
Federico Borello, Human Rights Lawyer, MONUC/OHCHR
Borello is the legal advisor for the United Nations mandated Mapping Team on themost serious human rights violations committed in the DRC between 1993 and 2003.