Child Rapes and Murders Declared Crimes Against Humanity in Landmark Case
(Washington, DC) The following is a statement from Panzi Foundation USA on the landmark ruling in the Kavumu trial that concluded today in eastern Congo.
Abuse of Power and a Path to Justice
The crimes of murder and systematic rape of very young children perpetrated by Frederic Batumike, a Congo parliamentarian, and his militia terrorized children, parents, and the community of Kavumu for more than a year. The heinous nature of the attacks created an outrage that spread far beyond Kavumu.
Throughout this crisis, a coalition of leaders of local associations, teachers, lawyers, NGO representatives, and human rights defenders worked to confront sexual violence in Kavumu. In April 2016, they convened an important community-led symposium, "Consortium SOS Jeune Filles en Danger,” at Panzi Hospital’s Maison Dorcas after-care facility and conference center.
Technical expertise of Panzi Hospital and Panzi Foundation DRC doctors, alongside other medical and legal professionals – like Physicians for Human Rights and TRIAL International – facilitated the rigorous documentation of each case. This, plus the careful preservation of evidence was critical to the judicial process.
A Complicated Path to Healing
Infants, toddlers, and young children sustained grievous, extensive injuries to their organs and reproductive systems. The severity of the trauma each child and family still faces cannot be understated.
Injuries include the destruction of the cervix, reproductive organs, bladders, fistula, and severe trauma to the abdomen. It is unknown if, or how many, of the surviving girls will recover and have normal sexual or reproductive functions.
Panzi physicians, psychologists, clinicians, and staff continue to serve the children and survivors. It is our commitment to support their work, and the families of those we serve every day.
Next Steps for Justice
The conviction of Batumike and his militia, 12 men in total, of Crimes Against Humanity by Rape and Murder is an historic moment in the fight against impunity for crimes of this nature. Many, many more women and girls, and boys, await justice in Congo.
The Bukavu Court made the mobile court possible for the victims and survivors in Kavumu. The strong partnership between medical and legal practitioners with civil society and the families affected was and remains critical.
No parent, no child, no person should be confronted with violence. The excruciating burden these families face must be met with action – through the holistic, comprehensive survivor-centered care provided on the frontlines, through the judicial process, stronger institutions, and with a supportive and engaged international community.
The child rapes in Kavumu shock the conscience, and we cannot – and should not – distance ourselves from this reality. While justice is denied any victim – the work must continue. The international community must respond. Rape decimates humanity. In the victim of each crime and within each of us.
Justice in Kavumu must be a step towards ending impunity in Congo, and around the world.