10 Prisoners Jailed for Serial Rape of 37 Female Inmates in D.R.Congo

Ten prisoners were convicted of raping more than twenty female inmates at an overcrowded prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a violent riot.

37 women and a teenage girl testified that they were repeatedly raped at the Kasapa Central Prison near Lubumbashi over the course of a three-day riot in 2020.

A number of female detainees became pregnant and contracted HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The 10 men received fines and were ordered to spend an additional 15 years behind bars.

While many of the inmates didn’t want to testify, dozens of them told a military prosecutor they had been raped during the riot.

“After years of struggle, we are pleased with the verdict,” Melanie Mumba, a lawyer for the victims, told AFP.

The run-down prison facility was seized by a group of male inmates for several days in September 2020.

The women’s section of the prison was set ablaze, and female prisoners, including a 16-year-old girl, were sexually assaulted in the prison yard where they were forced to sleep.

Security forces eventually regained control after 20 inmates and a prison guard were killed during the violence.

HRW highlighted the mass rapes in reports, encouraging authorities to investigate the assaults and to provide adequate care to those affected.

Almost 2,000 people were detained in the prison, supposed to house 800 inmates, at the time of the incident, according to the campaign group. 

The report reported poor hygiene, sanitation, and healthcare at the facility, as well as repeated warnings that a riot would break out not being heeded by senior officials.

According to HRW researcher Thomas Fessy, the prosecution of 10 of the inmates should be viewed as only a first step.

The public prosecutor in Lubumbashi said that 37 of the 56 female detainees were raped by male inmates at the time of the riot and all perpetrators should be held responsible. A teenage girl was among the women who testified to the public prosecutor.

Throughout the incident, Mr Fessy said the Congolese state failed to protect and provide safety for inmates.

Human Rights Watch reported in 2021 that at least seven detainees became pregnant during the unrest, including a 16-year-old girl.

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