DAKAR – Congolese Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege says an international criminal tribunal is urgently needed to prosecute mass atrocities, including widespread sexual violence, that continue to go unpunished in his country.
Crimes against humanity, war crimes, and even crimes of genocide are committed with impunity in Congo, despite a damning report issued 10 years ago, Mukwege told The Associated Press in an interview via the internet from the Panzi Hospital he founded in Bukavu in eastern Congo to treat survivors of sexual violence.
“We know that when crimes go unpunished, it simply means that we have opened the door to the pursuit of more crimes, and the example of Congo is very striking," he said. "So today, the Congolese population has spoken out to demand justice.”
He said that “fighting impunity, since it is the only way to empower and stabilize people, is the only way to work for lasting peace in this region. And this peace needs justice, truth and reconciliation.”
The doctor has a groundswell of support in Bukavu where thousands marched Thursday to demand justice and action from Congo's government and the international community.
Mukwege's call comes 10 years after the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report describing numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Congo, including more than 617 crimes committed between 1993 and 2003. The report detailed mass killings, sexual violence, attacks on children, and other abuses by rebel groups, foreign armies and Congolese armed forces.
Women and children were the main victims of the violence documented in the U.N. report, which recommended that Congo implement mechanisms of transitional justice. But little has been done, Mukwege said.
In August, Congo President Felix Tshisekedi said that he wants the government to combat the abuses and crimes through justice for past and present crimes.