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The Minova Rape Trial

Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi | South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo

A victim testifies. On a November evening in 2012, around 8 p.m., Congolese government soldiers knocked on her door. Her five children scattered and hid in the bedroom. Her husband was already gone. He fled when he heard bullets fired earlier. When the soldiers entered the house, two of them threw her on the ground and began to rape her. The others pillaged her home, carrying off sacks of rice and corn, cans of cooking oil that her family had received from an aid organization. Her husband returned in the morning. When he learned she had been raped, he left and never returned.

Between February 12th and 19th, 2014, a temporary courtroom was set up in Minova town to hear the testimonies of resident rape victims.

On trial were 39 FARDC(Armed Forces of the DRC) soldiers, accused of participating in a 10-day run of violence in November 2012, during which more than 1000 women, children and men were raped in Minova alone. Yet only 37 soldiers faced rape charges. The attacks on civilians happened as FARDC soldiers were fleeing the rebels of the March 23 Movement(M23) who, at the time, had gained control of the key eastern city of Goma.

In 2011, the United Nations Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict dubbed the DRC the “rape capital of the world.” The Minova trial represented an advance in bringing justice to victims of rape—an unprecedentedly large number of government soldiers were accused, and there was no possibility of appeal.

Yet when the ruling came down on May 5th, 2014, only two soldiers were convicted of rape, one of whom received a life sentence.

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