ICC Concerns over “Escalation in Serious Violence” in DRC

Armed forces of the DRC patrolling a village in Ituri Armed forces of the DRC patrolling a village in Ituri The Africa Center for Strategic Studies/MONUSCO Photos

17 June 2020 

Increasing ethnic-driven armed attacks on civilians in the Ituri province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

On 4 June 2020, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, released a statement on increasing attacks on certain ethnic communities and camps for internally displaced persons. 

According to the head of the Djugu administrative region in Ituri, 22 civilians were killed on 15 April 2020 in an attack by assailants of the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) in the village of Koli overnight. CODECO are a Congolese army drawn from the Lendu ethnic group. The civilian victims of the attack were of the Hema ethnic group known for constantly being targeted by CODECO. 

An investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) in the DRC found that more than 700 civilians have been killed and 168 injured since late 2017 due to the ethnic conflict. In addition, “at least 142 people have been subjected to acts of sexual violence (…) most of them members of the Hema community.” Accounts of extreme forms of violence against children were also found. For example, on 10 June 2019 in the district of Torges, a Hema man who was trying to prevent armed assailants from raping his wife witnessed his 8-year-old son being beheaded. Moreover, more than 556,000 civilians of Ituri have taken refuge in Uganda due to the conflict according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 

Bensouda has emphasised that these acts could constitute serious international crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC and calls on all groups to “cease all attacks against the civilian population without delay.” She also noted that her Office will intensify contact with the Congolese authorities and deploy a mission to the DRC as soon as the conditions related to the current COVID-19 health crisis allow. 


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Author: Catherine Gregoire; Editor: Sara Gorelli

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