Aggravated assault, torture, looting and massive rapes of women and minor girls were the counts of indictment received by Mbandaka Military Court against these police officers, who engaged in a punitive operation against the population of Waka and Lifumba when they were sent on mission to restore order in these localities.
Before returning the verdict, the military auditor of Mbandaka Military Court, Captain Lingwema Likanza, asked for all who followed the case to break the fear of denouncing any similar act made by men in uniform.
After pointing out the facts, Judge Kole Mukengeshayi thereafter pronounced his verdict which condemned Botuli Itofo, the recognised principal author of the massive rapes, to 20 years in prison.
The eleven other police officers, joint authors of these acts, of which ten are on the run, were condemned to 5 years in prison. All the 12 defendants will have to jointly pay 5,000 dollars to each of the 38 rape victims as damages, in conjunction with the Congolese state, who are civilly responsible for police officers on mission of service.
Overall, 52 women and young girls came forward as rape victims by the police officers. Because of lack of evidence, the court declared the complaints of 22 of the alleged victims as non-founded
Counsel for the state, Mr. François Tshiteya, said he was satisfied with the judgment. The population of Waka and Lifumba, which held their breath for the verdict last Tuesday, is also satisfied with the judgment.
The victims however, are not so confident that the damages awarded will be paid. The Chief of Waka sector, spokesperson for the victims, transmitted this concern to the court immediately after the verdict.
Mr. Tshiteya Counsel promised that upon obtaining the copy of the judgment, he will undertake the procedure whereby the Congolese state will pay the damages. Among the victims, some were repudiated by their husbands after the rapes, and others suffer from sexually transmitted infections.
It should be noted that on the same day another verdict was pronounced by the military tribunal against four police officers, for the murder of one demobilized soldier and the rape of his wife and her mother.
The culprits were condemned to between 6 months and 5 years in prison. They will have to also pay jointly with the Congolese State 5,000 dollars in damages to the family of the deceased demobilized soldier, and 5 thousand dollars to the widow of the demobilised and her mother respectively, in damages relating to the rapes.
Furthermore, MONUC mobilised its helicopter for the transfer of the court to Waka, and in conjunction with the UN High Commission for Human Rights made the open court proceedings a reality.