DR Congo sentences 25 soldiers to death for ‘fleeing the enemy’

DR Congo sentences 25 soldiers to death for 'fleeing the enemy'

In a swift one-day trial, a military court in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo, has sentenced 25 soldiers to death for allegedly fleeing the battlefield while fighting against the M23 rebel group. The soldiers, including two captains, were accused of deserting their posts during the ongoing conflict in the mineral-rich eastern region.

The trial, which was widely criticized by human rights groups, was convened at the Butembo garrison military court and saw 31 defendants, including 27 soldiers and four civilian wives, face charges of “fleeing the enemy”, dissipating war munitions, violating orders, and theft.

According to defense lawyers, the accused were denied adequate representation and were subjected to a rushed trial with inadequate evidence. “25 soldiers, including two captains, were sentenced to death,” said Jules Muvweko, one of the defense lawyers.

The M23 rebels have made significant gains in recent weeks, capturing several towns in North Kivu province, including the strategic town of Kanyabayonga. The group has also taken control of vast swaths of territory over the past several years, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

The conflict in eastern Congo has been ongoing for over three decades, with multiple armed groups vying for power and control. The Congolese government has accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebels, a claim that Kigali denies.

The death penalty was reinstated in March by the Congolese government, specifically targeting soldiers accused of treason. This decision has raised concerns among human rights groups, who argue that it will only exacerbate the already volatile situation in eastern Congo.

This is not the first time that soldiers have been sentenced to death for “cowardice” or “fleeing the enemy”. In May, eight Congolese soldiers were handed down similar sentences for abandoning their posts during fighting against rebel forces.

The situation in eastern Congo remains precarious, with over 2.8 million people displaced and hundreds of thousands more forced to flee their homes due to violence and insecurity.

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