NAIROBI, 20 Mar 2006 (IRIN) - A Congolese military tribunal has condemned a leader of a former armed group, called Mudundu 40, to five years imprisonment for crimes including the illegal detention of children, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) said on Monday.
"The judgment, which is without precedent, constitutes a significant step forward for Congolaise justice in the fight against impunity for these types of crimes against children," MONUC said in its statement.
Previously the NGO Human Rights Watch said Mudundu 40 was composed of up to 40 percent child soldiers. The condemned man, who is reportedly named Kanyanga Biyoyo, was found guilty of illegally detaining children in South Kivu Province in April 2004. The trail was conducted in the provincial capital, Bukavu.
On Friday the International Criminal Court in The Hague announced that it had arrested Thomas Lubanga the leader of an armed group in the northeastern district of Ituri, Orientale Province, who will also stand trail for conscripting children.
The recruitment and use of children younger than 15 years old by armed groups is a war crime, under the statutes of the International Criminal Court ratified by Congo. Moreover, in May 2005, the chief of staff of the DRC armed forces, Gen Sungilanga Lome Kisempia, ordered commanders not to recruit persons younger than 18 years old, and said those disobeying this order would be severely punished.
However, MONUC has reported that many new human rights abuses are still occurring. "[The army] is responsible for the majority of human rights violations under investigation by MONUC in February," MONUC's Human Rights Division said in a statement issued on Friday.
Many of the violations were committed during military operations in Ituri and the provinces of North and South Kivu.
"Acts of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against civilians by the Presidential Guard and torture by the police were reported in three provinces," it said.
MONUC said it remained concerned by the continuing incidents of rape by members of the security forces and also that "two death sentences were passed after trials that did not conform to international standards."