GENEVA, Switzerland, December 18, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein today welcomed the conviction and sentencing of Lieutenant Colonel Bedi Mobuli Engangela for committing crimes against humanity between 2005 and 2007 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Engangela, better known as ‘Colonel 106′ after the battalion he commanded, was on Monday sentenced to life in prison for murder, rape, sexual slavery, torture, abduction, and “imprisonment and other forms of grave deprivation of physical liberty.”
“Such a high-profile conviction of a senior officer will, I hope, bring some measure of comfort and catharsis to the victims of the horrific human rights violations committed and ordered by Engangela,” High Commissioner Zeid said. “This case is a major boost in the fight against impunity in the DRC.”
In line with the Government’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual violence, the UN in 2007 urged it to bring to justice perpetrators of sexual violence, including commanding officers involved in a number of cases. An arrest warrant was issued for one of these officers, Engangela, in September 2011 and the UN Joint Human Rights Office, working with other components of MONUSCO*, the UN Development Programme, and national and international justice partners, has since then provided important assistance to military authorities on this case.
MONUSCO’s support enabled the prosecution to identify some 900 victims during preliminary investigations. Eighty victims and eyewitnesses were then able to testify at Engangela’s trial, including 31 victims of sexual violence. The fact that the UN Joint Human Rights Office worked closely with the authorities to set up a witness protection system, allowing witnesses to testify without fear of retaliation, was another extremely important element contributing to the eventual landmark conviction and life sentence.
Engangela’s conviction comes a month after another high-ranking officer, General Jérôme Kakwavu, was sentenced by the High Military Court in Kinshasa to 10 years in prison for rape and war crimes committed in Ituri district by himself and his armed group, the Forces armées du Peuple congolais (FAPC), between 2003 and 2005.
The High Commissioner called on the authorities in the DRC to build on the momentum created by these cases to continue to prioritise justice and accountability for gross human rights violations, and to ensure that victims of such crimes receive adequate assistance and compensation. Equally, the authorities should ensure that the rights of the accused – to a fair trial and to appeal judicial decisions – are fully respected, Zeid said.