July 16, 2009


Human Rights Watch has carried out research on sexual violence against women and girls in Congo since 2000, and has interviewed hundreds of victims of sexual violence. Sexual violence is an act of a sexual nature by force, or by threat of force or coercion. Rape is a form of sexual violence during which the body of a person is invaded, resulting in penetration, however slight, of any part of the body of the victim, with a sexual organ, or of the anal or genital opening of the victim with any object or other part of the body.[1]

Research for this report was carried out between January and April 2009 in North and South Kivu, Congo. We interviewed victims and witnesses of sexual violence, relatives of victims, representatives of churches and NGOs, staff of international agencies, and government representatives. We also interviewed military officials, military prosecutors, and military judges, as well as the 14th brigade's former commander and 16 members of the 14th brigade itself (some had left the brigade at the time of the interview).[2] Prior to the visit, we informed military authorities of our research.

Researchers took great care to ensure that victims of sexual violence were interviewed in safe conditions and were comfortable speaking about their experiences.[3] We chose not to interview children under the age of 12 because we determined that it was possible to show the 14th brigade's responsibility for widespread sexual violence without undertaking such sensitive interviews and their associated risks. The interviews took place in private, with only one trusted translator present. In total we interviewed 31 women and girls who had been raped by FARDC soldiers, as well as five relatives of victims.We also received testimony from victims who were unable to identify the attackers at all, and did not use any of those testimonies.

In 14 cases, interview partners identified the rapists with certainty as soldiers of the 14th brigade. As several instances involved more than one victim, we documented 19 cases of sexual violence by members of the 14th brigade through victims and relatives. Brigades have epaulettes of different colors, and the 14th brigade epaulettes are purple; sometimes, however, brigades take the epaulettes off, possibly to avoid identification. We attributed cases to the 14th brigade when victims saw the purple epaulette or when the attackers were otherwise clearly identified as members of the 14th brigade, for example through their presence at a military camp of the 14th brigade. We also received information about seven cases of rape by 14th brigade soldiers through judicial authorities and members of the 14th brigade, bringing the total number of documented cases of sexual violence committed by members of the 14th brigade to 26. Military officials, members of the 14th brigade, justice officials, and NGOs, also provided background information on sexual violence by the 14th brigade.

In 14 other cases, victims described acts of sexual violence that are likely to have been committed by the 14th brigade, but the victims were unable to identify the soldiers' brigade with certainty. These cases are not included in the 26 documented cases mentioned above. In one additional case, we received testimony about a rape committed by 14th brigade soldiers who might have been deserters.

[1] ICC, Elements of Crimes, International Criminal Court, ICC-ASP/1/3(part II-B), September 9, 2002, http://www.icc-cpi.int/NR/rdonlyres/9CAEE830-38CF-41D6-AB0B-68E5F9082543/0/Element_of_Crimes_English.pdf (accessed June 4, 2009).

[2] Names of members of the 14th brigade are withheld to protect their identity, except for the brigade commander and intelligence officer.

[3] Names of victims and witnesses are withheld to protect their identity.