Human rights campaigners applauded a court ruling that sentenced 11 members of a Congolese militia to life in prison for raping dozens of young girls as a landmark for justice in a country where such crimes often go unpunished.
The fighters from Djeshi ya Yesu – the Army of Jesus – militia were accused of raping at least 37 girls near the village of Kavumu in Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu province between 2013 and 2016, Reuters reported.
The prosecution alleged that a spiritual adviser to the group – which is helmed by provincial lawmaker Frederic Batumike – told the fighters that raping very young children would give them mystical protection against their enemies.
Batumike and other militia members were also convicted of murder, membership in a rebel movement and illegal weapons possession, and the court ruled that the rapes and murders amounted to crimes against humanity. The crimes had caused an international outcry and rights workers had criticized the government for its slow response.