[JURIST] A military court for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Monday convicted two of 39 soldiers charged with raping more than 130 women in the province of South Kivu. Another 24 soldiers were convicted of looting. Sources indicate that rape convictions are extremely rare in the DRC and that having a trial at all represents a major step toward protecting victims. The case is reportedly the largest rape trial [Al Jazeera report] in the DRC's history. The convictions come one month after the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (UNJHRO) [official website] released a report detailing widespread sexual violence [JURIST report] committed by government forces and rebel groups between January 2010 and December 2013. According to the report, the UNJHRO documented 3,635 cases of sexual violence through its 18 field offices.
The DRC continues to draw criticism for its human rights record. In April a coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration] urging the DRC to create new mechanisms in its national justice system [JURIST report for prosecuting war crimes. In October the top official for the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, condemned [JURIST report] a series of attacks perpetrated by the Mayi-Mayi Cheka, which resulted in the deaths of 34 civilians, including 20 children, in the eastern region of the DRC. In September Navi Pillay welcomed [JURIST report] the establishment of a national human rights commission in the DRC but said that rights abuses continue in the east. The report came on the heels of the UN's call to diminish institutionalized impunity [JURIST report] in the war-torn nation.