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History of Mass Atrocities Previous

In eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the violence continues to recur, never stopping long enough to provide real security for civilians or allow for reconstruction. The central government is weak and unable to secure and govern the entire country. Despite the end to official hostilities and numerous ceasefires, violence against civilians persists. New waves of violence and reprisal attacks continue to displace millions. Sexual violence remains endemic, including rape, sexual mutilation, and sexual slavery, leading to a host of complex health problems for survivors and deeply traumatized communities. Many women who are victims of sexual violence and their children are abandoned by their husbands and communities. 

On June 23, 2004, Luis Moreno Ocampo, then-prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), announced that the Court's first-ever investigation would probe crimes committed throughout the DRC. In March 2006, Thomas Lubanga, a rebel commander operating in eastern DRC, became the first person arrested under an ICC arrest warrant. He was charged with war crimes for recruiting child soldiers during the Second Congo War. The ICC has publicly brought charges on a total of six individuals, all former rebel leaders. In 2019 Bosco Ntaganda was convicted on 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder and attempted murder, rape, sexual slavery, attacking civilians, pillaging, displacement of civilians, attacking protected objects, and recruiting and using child soldiers in Ituri between 2002–2003. 

In May 2008, former vice president and presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba was arrested in Brussels by Belgian authorities and transferred to The Hague. He was wanted by the ICC on several counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for leading Congolese rebels in a widespread and systematic attack against the Central African Republic's civilian population in 2002 and 2003. On June 21, 2016 he was convicted on five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Later that year his conviction was overturned on appeal. In 2018 Bemba returned to the DRC, after 11 years of exile and imprisonment. He attempted to run for president in the DRC’s 2018 elections, but was ultimately barred from running by the country's Independent National Electoral Commission.

In 2010, the United Nations released a report on human rights violations in the DRC. Published by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the report outlined the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in the DRC between 1993 and 2003 and offered a range of  justice options to deal with the legacy of the crimes. The report provided a shocking picture of violence directed against civilians in the DRC by multiple perpetrators for over more than a decade. The report charged that attacks carried out in 1996 and 1997 by the Rwandan army and their rebel allies against Hutu civilians in the DRC may constitute genocide, but deferred judgment on this question to the courts. It also documented crimes allegedly committed by the government of Mobutu Sese Seko, other national militaries and militias, including Ugandan, Burundian, and Congolese rebels. The report provided guidance for the Congolese and international authorities on how to prosecute perpetrators and address victims’ rights.