Ending Impunity for Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in the DRC: The Power of Cross-Sector Training to Increase Prosecution and Conviction



Participants at a cross-sector training held by PHR in eastern DRC in January 2012. (Photo credit: Physicians for Human Rights.)





In eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), decades of internal conflict have devastated the civilian population. Military forces and rebel groups use widespread rape as a “weapon of war” to terrorize communities, and a staggering 40% of Congolese women in the conflict-affected area are estimated to have been victims.

The Congolese government has enacted laws providing protection and reparations to victims, but the country has struggled to implement this legislation. The vast majority of cases never reach trial because rapes are not reported or not pursued by police or prosecutors. DRC’s legal system is plagued by corruption and limited capacity, with police and prosecutors lacking the training and tools necessary to conduct proper investigations of rape. DRC also suffers from an insufficient number of doctors and nurses, and the medical professionals working to treat rape victims lack adequate training to collect forensic evidence necessary to support rape convictions.


Cross-Sector Training Helps Police, Prosecutors, and Medical Providers Work Together to Obtain Justice for Rape Victims

In 2011, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) began a capacity-building program in the DRC to train doctors, nurses, police, and prosecutors to improve forensic evidence documentation of rape and to increase professional collaboration. Through this program, hundreds of professionals have been trained and a standardized evidence collection form has been introduced to streamline rape documentation.

PHR’s trainings are making a real impact, but significant work remains, and the international community must support increased efforts to improve medical and legal capacity. Additional donor funding is needed to ensure that PHR can continue its work to enable medical and legal professionals to build strong cases against perpetrators. Support from large, institutional donors is critical, but individuals can also do their part by making small donations or asking their member of Congress to support foreign assistance aimed at increasing capacity among police, prosecutors, and clinicians. With increased attention and funding, can we end impunity for these horrific crimes.



2 Responses to “Ending Impunity for Perpetrators of Sexual Violence in the DRC: The Power of Cross-Sector Training to Increase Prosecution and Conviction”

  1. mboeck2 Says:

    This is such an amazing example of a sustainable intervention from a foreign, non-governmental organization that is making lasting impacts. Although specifically focused on rape, sensitization to the issues of sexual and domestic violence likely has broader implications for the surrounding communities where this is being introduced, shifting social norms and empowering victims to realize there is help out there. Ideally one day the national government will be able to independently address this issue, attacking the numerous health and legal system challenges that form barriers to adequately treating the victims and persecuting the perpetrators. Great advocacy piece, especially adding the donor link at the end!

  2. kguymd Says:

    This is important work. I always like to consider the minds of the perpetrators as well. Are there preventative measures that can be taken to prevent men and boys from carrying out these gross crimes in the first place? Unfortunately this number (40%) is “only” 10% above the worldwide average for women who have been victims of sex crimes. I wonder whether punitive measures have been effective enough. I’m not sure what the trend has been for these crimes.

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