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Congolese militiamen stand trial for raping children

Eighteen people, including a provincial lawmaker, went on trial in eastern Congo for the rapes of dozens of children, victims’ rights activists said.
At least 46 children, some as young as 18 months, were raped near the village of Kavumu between 2013 and 2016, sparking an international outcry and criticism of Democratic Republic of Congo’s government for its slow response.
In June last year, authorities arrested Frederic Batumike, a deputy from South Kivu province, and members of a militia he is alleged to have led.
Rights groups hope the trial, which is expected to last several weeks, will strike a blow against impunity in Congo, where they say government forces and militia groups in the lawless eastern borderland have long used rape as a weapon of war.
The trial opened in a military court in Kavumu on Thursday with the defendants facing charges of rape, murder and organization of an armed group, Jean Chrysostome Kijana, an activist representing the victims, told Reporters.
“The start of the trial is a strong signal in the fight against impunity,” said Kijana.
According to the government, Batumike’s militia employed a spiritual adviser who told its fighters that raping very young children would confer supernatural protection.
Advocacy groups involved in the case say it has been particularly difficult to investigate because the victims are so young and their families were often asleep when the alleged rapes occurred.


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