n African Human Rights Law Journal - Rape as a weapon of war : combating sexual violence and impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the way forward

Volume 15, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-073X
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2096



Rape is both a consequence and a weapon of war, as may be seen throughout the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office recently published a report that noted the necessity of moving these issues to the forefront of the international political agenda. Sexual violence in the region has led to mass human rights breaches that require the attention of the international community. With impunity plaguing the social and judicial structure of the DRC, combating this issue is more challenging. This is due to a number of obstacles: a lack of resources within the judicial system; the stigmatisation of victims (social and cultural); the costs of legal proceedings; and a lack of protection for victims. As such, the article examines sexual violence committed by military officers and rebel groups in the DRC in order to outline the failures of the domestic system. It also provides a brief historical overview of sexual violence in the DRC. The article uses Baaz and Stern's perception of 'rape as a weapon of war' to analyse the lack of protection mechanisms for victims and witnesses of sexual violence in the region. In doing so, the article examines the obstacles to fighting sexual violence in armed conflict in the DRC (stigmatisation and shame, and costs of legal proceedings). Finally, the article suggests that a mixed chamber or hybrid court be created in order to prosecute perpetrators of the worst human rights violations.

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