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6 CONGOLESE SOLDIERS CONVICTED OF MASS RAPE GET LIFE SENTENCES, UN REPORTS
New York, Jun 9 2006 4:00PM
In a case that the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been following closely, six soldiers from the national armed forces were given life sentences of hard labour for crimes against humanity after their convictions on charges of mass rape were re-examined and confirmed.

A seventh soldier was acquitted for lack of evidence in the new hearing, in which the head of the human rights division of the UN Organization Mission in DRC (MONUC), Komlan Tchangai, and other human rights defenders took part.

The convicted soldiers from the Armed Forces of DRC (FARDC) were based at Songo Mboyo. The Military Court of Equateur said the Tribunal of the Mbandaka Garrison, which initially convicted the soldiers, lacked jurisdiction over Songo Mboyo, which is in the district of Mongala and the territory of Bongadanga, MONUC said.

The Military Court heard the evidence again on the events of December 2003 and convicted the six soldiers anew, then sentenced them under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which the DRC ratified in July 1998.

The Military Court of Equateur province also ruled that the DRC Government, being responsible for the acts of its soldiers against civilians in the Songo Mboyo area in December 2003, must pay $10,000 to each family who lost a member because of the sexual assault, $5,000 to each surviving rape victim and $3,000 to each businessperson who was a victim of the soldiers looting.

The legal team for the defendants told the court the soldiers had rebelled against one Captain Ramazani of the Ninth Battalion because they had not been paid their wages.

Meanwhile, the magistrate of a lower court in the Military Garrison of Mbandaka has opened an investigation of Mr. Ramazani and others on suspicion of embezzling Ninth Battalion funds and inciting soldiers to commit acts contrary to military discipline.
2006-06-09 00:00:00.000


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