Seven army officers have been arrested and charged with war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to government officials at a press conference on March 18. The charges stem from a massacre of unarmed civilians in Kasaï-Central Province in February that was recorded and widely shared on social media. Congolese military auditor general Joseph Ponde Isambwa said that all seven arrested soldiers were members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, or FARDC. Ponde said the charges against the officers include "war crime by murder, war crime by mutilation, war crimes by cruel inhuman and degrading treatment and denial of an offense committed by persons subject to military jurisdiction."
Human Rights Watch had called on the DRC to investigate the killings committed in the Feb. 17 video. Earlier in February, the UN human rights commissioner urged the DRC to end violence against civilians. Also in February the UN human rights chief expressed concern over reports that at least 101 people had been killed by Congolese soldiers in a clash with the local Kamuina Nsapu militia in Kasaï-Central.
Last October, violent protests erupted in the DRC after the electoral commission announced that the next presidential election, originally scheduled for November 2016, would be pushed back to 2018. The commission stated that it needed more time to prepare supplies and voter registration lists. In early 2016 then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urged African leaders to avoid using loopholes and undemocratic constitutional changes to "cling to power."
From Jurist, March 20. Used with permission.