Rape was rampant among the Congolese armed forces and militia groups, an expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) told judges on Thursday.
Roberto Garreton, a Chilean lawyer and former United Nations special enjoy on human rights in the DRC, said that soldiers in the DRC are “allowed to do whatever.”
Even in times of peace, he said, military forces raped women.
“In 2005, a group of 14 soldiers left their barracks and raped 200 women,” he said. “It’s a culture based on the needs of the military.”
As a UN envoy, Garreton said he heard unsubstantiated claims that Uganda – which occupied the Ituri region from 1999 to 2003 – sent HIV-infected soldiers into the DRC to spread the virus among Congolese women.
If such statements were true, he said, “this would be the worst atrocity committed.”
Civilians were often the victims of extreme violence in the DRC, Garreton said.
“In the utter madness of these wars, the people killed … were women, children and the elderly,” he said. “A bullet lands where it lands.”
The violence often had severe side-effects, he said, such as with a woman he met whose husband left her after she lost a leg in an attack. “She was no longer a woman to him,” said Garreton.
The trial continues on Friday morning when a protected witness identified by the number “89” is expected to testify.