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Kavumu

Kavumu: Statement from Dr. Denis Mukwege

Kavumu: Statement from Dr. Denis Mukwege

Contact:
PanziUSA - Elizabeth Blackney (English) (GMT -5)

ElizabethB@pfusa.org or via phone: +1 541.390.1913. 
Panzi Hospital – Crispin Kashale (French) (GMT +2)
communication@fondationpanzirdc.org
+243 819 593 254

The following statement is from Dr. Denis Mukwege, Founder and Medical Director for Panzi Hospital, Dr. Mukwege is the Founder and President of Panzi Foundation DRC and Panzi Foundation USA. His statement on the Kavumu Trial is provided in both English and French. 

(Bukavu, DRC) From Dr. Denis Mukwege: "Yesterday, Wednesday, December 13, the curtains fell on the trial of Kavumu. The trial focused on the systematic rape of 42 children, aged 18 months to 10 years old. An exemplary verdict: twelve convictions were pronounced for crimes against humanity by rape and murder. Do these convictions signal the advent of justice's victory over the culture of impunity in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

"I congratulate the parents of the victims and survivors for their courage. They were steadfast and strong until the end of the trial despite threats and intimidation of all kinds. They knew how to brave the fear, the shame, and the stigmatization to assert their rights. I salute with respect and great emotion this strong wind of truth which blows over our military and demonstrates to the world it is time to speak for what is right, no matter the political stature of the accused.

"This verdict gives hope to the multitude of silent and traumatized victims who dare not complain because of their lack of faith in our justice system.

"This Kavumu trial sends a strong message to political leaders at all levels who use and support militias. Even as those militias kill and rape civilians, attack Congolese armed forces, and United Nations peace-keepers; they commit and perpetuate war crimes and crimes against humanity – the message is still clear: sooner or later justice will prevail.

"I express my gratitude to the staff of the Panzi Hospital, the Panzi Foundation, and the teams from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and TRIAL International. I also am grateful to all the experts in humanitarian and international law as well as psychological experts for their support to the victims and the determination to bring this trial to a successful conclusion. 

"This landmark collaboration is an example of humanism, altruism and efficiency; a model for fighting impunity in conflict zones. It deserves to be congratulated and replicated in other areas of conflict. To make a better world, everyone should bring out the best of himself or herself, bring our skills and materials to strengthen the process like the many practitioners who did so in, and for, Kavumu. That is what they did with professionalism. 

"The thorny question about reparations remains uncertain. Medical scientific literature does not shed sufficient light on the consequences of mass rape on babies. There are not many retrospective studies of babies left alive in the context of conflict where rape is used as a weapon of war.

"For some of these raped children under the age of twenty-four months, they should not only be provided with psychological and medical care for at least the next 17 years, but also a full assessment of the consequences of these rapes with extreme violence on their sexuality, their fertility, and their behavior. This can only be done when they reach adulthood. Their healing process is merely beginning.

"I encourage the gynecological, pediatric-psychological, and psychosocial monitoring teams as well as their parents to shower these children with love, tenderness, and grace so that the victory over their abusers and executioners is complete and with the least possible pain in the aftermath.

It goes without saying that the protection of witnesses, parents, and the various actors in the past and future care of these children is essential."

"With more political will we can overcome impunity, build a safer world, and a better future for our children and future generations."

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Déclaration du Dr Mukwege sur le verdict du procès de viol des enfants à Kavumu/RD Congo.

Depuis hier mercredi 13 décembre, les rideaux sont tombés sur le procès de Kavumu. Un procès pour viol de 42 enfants de 18 mois à 10 ans. Le verdict a été exemplaire : douze condamnations pour crimes contre l'humanité ont été prononcées. Ces condamnations augurent-elles l'avènement de la victoire de la Justice sur la culture de l'impunité en République Démocratique du Congo? 

Je félicite les parents des victimes pour leur courage. Ils ont su tenir bon jusqu'à la fin du procès malgré les menaces et les intimidations de toutes sortes. Ils ont su braver la peur, la honte, la stigmatisation pour faire valoir leur droit. Je salue avec respect et grande émotion ce vent de vérité et de fermeté qui souffle sur notre justice militaire qui a su montrer à la face du monde qu'elle est capable de dire le droit et rien que le droit quelle que soit l'influence politique du prévenu. 

Ce verdict donne l'espoir à la multitude des victimes silencieuses et traumatisées qui n'osent se plaindre faute de foi en notre justice. 

Ce procès de Kavumu est un message fort adressé aux dirigeants politiques, à tous niveaux, qui entretiennent des milices. Des milices qui tuent et violent les civils, attaquent les forces armées congolaises et les forces des Nations Unies. Des milices qui commettent des crimes de guerre et des crimes contre l'humanité judiciairement imprescriptibles. Le message envoyé est clair, tôt ou tard la justice vaincra. 

J’exprime ma gratitude au staff de l'hôpital de Panzi, de la Fondation Panzi et à nos collaborateurs des organisations PHR et TRIAL. J’exprime ma reconnaissance aux experts en droit humanitaire et international ainsi qu’aux experts psychologues pour leur soutien aux victimes et la détermination à faire aboutir ce procès. 
Cette collaboration qui fera date, est un exemple d'humanisme, d’altruisme et d’efficacité ;  un modèle  de lutte contre l'impunité dans les zones de conflit. Elle mérite d'être félicitée et répliquée dans d'autres zones de conflit. Pour faire un monde meilleur, chacun devrait apporter le meilleur de lui-même, sa pierre à l’édifice, c'est ce qu’ils ont su faire avec professionnalisme. 

Il reste en suspens, l'épineuse question de réparations. La littérature scientifique ne nous éclaire pas suffisamment sur les conséquences des viols de masse chez les bébés. Il n’y a pas beaucoup d’études rétrospectives portant sur des bébés laissés en vie dans le contexte de conflits où le viol est utilisé comme arme de guerre. 

Pour certaines de ces enfants violées en dessous de l’âge de vingt-quatre mois, il faudrait non seulement leur assurer un suivi psychologique et médical pendant au moins les 17 ans à venir, mais aussi une évaluation complète des conséquences de ces viols avec extrême violence, sur leur sexualité, leur fertilité et leur comportement. Cela ne pourra se faire que lorsqu'elles atteindront leur majorité. Le processus de leur guérison ne fait donc que commencer.

J'encourage les équipes de suivi gynécologique, pédo-psychologique, psychosocial ainsi que les parents à accompagner ces enfants avec amour, tendresse et grâce afin que la victoire sur leurs bourreaux soit totale et avec le moins des séquelles possibles. 

Il va sans dire que la protection des  témoins, des parents et des différents acteurs de la prise  en charge passée et future de ces enfants  est indispensable.

Avec davantage de volonté politique nous pouvons vaincre l'impunité, bâtir un monde plus sûr et un meilleur avenir pour nos enfants et les générations futures. 

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Justice for Kavumu's Children

Justice for Kavumu's Children

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.  

CoFounder and Chair Dr. Lee Ann De Reus and Executive Director Tony Gambino are available for interviews. Please contact Media Director Elizabeth Blackney via email at ElizabethB@pfusa.org. 
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