Women's Voices e-letter April 2011
Welcome to Women's Voices, our regular e-letter from the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice. In Women's Voices you will find updates and analysis on political developments, the pursuit of justice, the status of peace talks and reconciliation efforts from the perspective of women's rights activists from four conflict situations — Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Darfur and the Central African Republic (CAR). We are working in these contexts because they are situations under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In addition to Women's Voices, we also produce a regular legal newsletter, Legal Eye on the ICC, with summaries and gender analysis of legal developments, judicial decisions, announcements of arrest warrants and victims' participation before the Court, particularly as these issues relate to the prosecution of gender-based crimes.
With both online e-letters we will also update you about the programmes, legal and political advocacy, campaigns, events, and publications of the Women's Initiatives.
More information about the work of Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and previous issues of Women's Voices and the Legal Eye can be found on our website at www.iccwomen.org.
From 28 March to 6 April, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice and WITNESS held a ten-day video advocacy workshop in Nairobi, Kenya for gender justice activists from armed conflict situations. The training, part of a multi-year joint project to develop videos and multimedia strategies to advance gender justice, was attended by 17 partners of the Women's Initiatives from five countries — Sudan, including a representative from South Sudan; the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); Kenya; the Central African Republic (CAR); and Kyrgyzstan.
The training included an introduction to the 'mechanics' of using and maintaining video cameras, recording and storing footage, story-telling through video, safety and security issues for interviewees as well as the videographers, and editing and distribution of the videos once completed. This training follows shorter video advocacy workshops held in Bukavu, eastern DRC, for 13 Women's Initiatives' partners during the World March of Women (October 2010) and in Kampala, Uganda for seven partners from the Greater North Women's Voices for Peace Network (December 2010).
Over the next two years, several videos will be produced highlighting specific gender justice issues relevant to each country and its context. We will provide updates about the project and links to the videos when they are launched.
On 21 February 2011, a special mobile gender court sentenced Lieutenant-Colonel Mutware Daniel Kibibi of the Congolese regular army (FARDC) to 20 years in prison for mass rape as a crime against humanity in relation to the New Year's Day attack on the village of Fizi, South Kivu, during which more than 60 women were raped.
During the trial held in the town of Baraka, South Kivu, from 10–20 February, 49 victims/survivors came forward to testify about the rapes and other forms of sexual violence committed during the attack in Fizi. It has been reported that each of the victims in the case will receive 10,000 USD as compensation from the DRC Government, although to date there has not been any indication from the Government about the timing or mode of payment.
While this is not the first trial in which members of the Congolese army have been convicted for rape and other forms of sexual violence, Lieutenant-Colonel Kibibi is the first FARDC commanding officer and the first military figure within the DRC to have been charged with crimes against humanity for sexual violence acts. During the same trial, ten other FARDC soldiers were tried for rape as a crime against humanity, of whom three were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and five were sentenced to 10 to 15 years. One soldier was acquitted and one, a minor, was referred to a juvenile court.
According to a Women's Initiatives' partner in South Kivu, the state's attorney had requested the judges to sentence five of the defendants to death and the remaining six to 30 years imprisonment. Although the last death sentence in the DRC was carried out in January 2003, the death penalty is still provided for by the Congolese justice system under which the mobile gender justice courts operate. This has raised concerns among some groups regarding compliance with international human rights standards. However, it should be noted that the death penalty has not been utilised in any of the sentencing decisions of the mobile gender courts.
The New Year's Day mass rape is a tangible sign of the deteriorating security in the Fizi territory. It is reported that from mid-January to mid-February 2011, 147 rape cases were examined by medical personnel in the western area of Fizi only. This figure does not include the victims/survivors of the Fizi rape of 1 January.
Kibibi was a former member of the Congrès national pour la défense du peuple (CNDP), a rebel group integrated into the Congolese Army (FARDC) following the signing of the 23 March 2009 Goma Agreement between the Congolese government and the CNDP. The UN co-sponsored peace agreement called for the integration of CNDP militia members into the FARDC without specifying a vetting mechanism nor ensuring the necessary retraining of the former rebels prior to their integration into the regular army.
After the signing of the Goma Agreement, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice expressed concern to the Secretary-General of the United Nations about specific aspects of the Agreement including (a) the lack of a vetting mechanism for combatants prior to integration into the Army; (b) the absence of provisions in the Agreement requiring formal retraining of CNDP police and combatants; and (c) the amnesty provision within the Goma Agreement with the CNDP. The absence of such measures and the possibility of amnesty could contribute to the repeated perpetration of gender-based crimes by CNDP personnel especially by those who had committed these crimes in the past. These concerns were conveyed to the UN Secretary-General in June 2009 in an Open Letter (English) (Français) from the Women's Initiatives signed by 65 partners in Eastern DRC, representing over 180 local women's and human rights organisations. This analysis of the Goma Agreement was confirmed in October 2009 by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial killings, who stated that attacks on civilians by the FARDC had escalated due, in his opinion, to the lack of training and the failure to fully integrate former armed group members belonging to the CNDP. According to Professor Alston, human rights violations committed by the FARDC usually go unpunished, including those committed by former CNDP members, for fear of the possible reaction of other CNDP members also within the FARDC.
Almost two years after the signing of the Goma Peace Agreement, the concerns have been further confirmed by the Fizi events and by the convictions of members of the regular army, led by a former CNDP member, for rape as a crime against humanity. While the convictions are a welcome development, the crimes themselves are emblematic of a Peace Agreement negotiated, signed and implemented without the participation of gender justice advocates and gender experts, and without conforming to United Nations Security Council resolutions on women, peace and security. UN Security Council Resolution 1820 explicitly refers to appropriate mechanisms to protect civilians from sexual violence including training of military troops regarding the prohibition of such acts and vetting armed and security forces. Resolution 1820 also stresses the exclusion of sexual violence crimes in amnesty provisions in the context of conflict-resolution processes.
Following the New Year's Day atrocities, local women's rights advocates in the Fizi territory organised an emergency meeting with 24 local NGOs. Participants in the meeting decided to send investigators to the areas where victims/survivors of the attack had been displaced and demanded justice for the victims/survivors of the mass rape.
According to partners of the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had their camps besieged and destroyed. The IDPs attributed the attacks to the government's implementation of the 'New Strategy for Darfur', a document ratified on 16 September 2010.
The 'New Strategy for Darfur' reduces the emphasis given to the ongoing international peace talks in Doha, Qatar, in the solution of the Darfur conflict. According to the Sudanese government, this new strategy will be based on discussions and consultations with groups not involved in fighting, on subjects such as reconciliation, security and the resettlement of IDPs. The strategy has been criticised by several parties to the conflict in Darfur as it was drafted without consulting other stakeholders, including the participants in the Doha Peace Talks. According to the IDPs, the 'New Strategy for Darfur' is a move to destroy their camps and to force the displaced population to flee.
According to Women's Initiatives' partners, in one particular attack against IDPs in late January 2011, heavily armed forces were sent by the Sudanese government to assault the Zamzam IDP camp — an operation in which 100 armed Land Cruisers were deployed. Soldiers robbed the camp inhabitants of all belongings, from blankets to vehicles, and destroyed the items they did not take. A number of people including women, children, and elders were reportedly tortured in the process. In addition, eleven women were raped, two IDPs were killed and close to 100 individuals were detained.
In a message directed at the international humanitarian bodies and sent to the Women's Initiatives for distribution, the IDP women of North Darfur called on the United Nations and the international community — including humanitarian organisations — to recognise their plight, dispatch aid and to keep this urgent conflict on the international radar. This message follows a petition delivered by IDP women leaders to the UN Security Council delegation that visited North Darfur last October.
1 Trial of DRC soldiers accused of mass rape in Fizi opens tomorrow in special mobile gender court, OSISA Media Advisory, 9 February 2011, at http://www.osisa.org/resources/docs/PDFs/news/Media_Advisory_Start_Mass_rape_trials.pdf.
2 For example, in October 2010, 13 FARDC soldiers were sentenced for rape in the Walungu area, South Kivu, by a military court. DRC Mobile Court a Sign of Hope, IPS, 8 March 2011, at http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=54753.
3 DRC Death Penalty Debate, IWPR, 31 January 2011, at http://iwpr.net/report-news/drc-death-penalty-debate.
4 See the May 2009 issue of Women's Voices.
5 Press statement by Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions. Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 5-15 October 2009, 15 October 2009, at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/executions/docs/PressStatement_SumEx_DRC.pdf. See also the December 2009 issue of Women's Voices.
6 Resolution 1820, UNSC, 5916th meeting, S/RES/1820 (2008), 19 June 2008, para 3, at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9364.doc.htm.
7 Resolution 1820, UNSC, 5916th meeting, S/RES/1820 (2008), 19 June 2008, para. 4, at http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2008/sc9364.doc.htm.
In this issue
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■ Funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), and implemented by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, the special mobile gender justice courts aim at making justice accessible to victims/survivors living in remote areas of South Kivu, eastern DRC, and complement ICC prosecutions of sexual and gender based crimes in the province.
■ The special mobile gender justice courts focus on cases of rape and sexual violence but can also try other crimes.
■ Trials at the special mobile courts can be both civilian and military depending on the accused's status.
■ The courts operate within the Congolese justice system.
■ According to the OSJI, since the beginning of the project in October 2009, 186 cases have been heard, of which 115 were rape cases. Of these, 94 resulted in convictions.
■ On 1 March 2011, the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice issued a statement on the UN Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court of the situation in Libya.
■ From 4 to 8 March 2011, Actions des femmes pour le développement (AFD), a local women's rights organisation based in South Kivu, and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice partnered in the organisation of a march, three workshops and the official launching of a gender justice campaign in the Fizi territory. Held in the villages of Mukela (4 March) and Baraka (5 March), the first two workshops were each attended by 30 women's rights activists and addressed the issues of women's access to domestic and international justice. The third workshop, held in Mboko on 6 and 7 March and attended by 50 women's rights activists, discussed the development of a three-year plan to advance gender justice in the Fizi territory. Activities culminated on 8 March with a march for gender justice held in Mboko and attended by around 600 people. These initiatives were organised in response to the deterioration of the security situation in South Kivu, particularly in the Fizi territory, and to express solidarity with victims/survivors of rape and other forms of sexual violence.
■ On 8 March 2011, the Amolatar Women Initiative for Women and Children's Rights in partnership with the Greater North Women's Voices for Peace Network and the Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice organised 'We Act Now', a one-day action in the Amolatar District, Lango sub-region, northern Uganda. 'We Act Now' was attended by more than 100 grassroots activists coming from different parts of the Amolatar District who met with local authorities and representatives of the President of Uganda and the Government to convey their call for gender equality and gender justice, and for women's inclusion in the accountability and reconciliation process. The honourable Nusura Tiperu, a member of the Ugandan National Parliament, youth activist and member of the East African Legislative Assembly, was the guest of honour of the meeting.
■ Five members of the Greater North Women's Voices for Peace Network, Uganda, participated in elections between February and March 2011. One member of the Network was elected to the National Parliament and four members were elected to local district councils. The Greater North Women's Voices for Peace Network was created in 2007 to provide a platform for women's rights and peace activists from northern Uganda to participate in the Juba Peace Talks aimed at ending the long-running conflict in the Greater North. Their recent election to public office increases the participation of women rights actors in political fora and strengthens the voice of gender justice advocates in important decision-making bodies.
■ On 7 February 2011, electoral officials confirmed that 99% of voters in the referendum on South Sudan were in favour of independence. The new state of South Sudan will officially come into existence on 9 July 2011. This period of transition provides an important opportunity for the inclusion of women in the political process and the integration of gender equality principles and provisions within the new constitution and other legislation as it is developed.