DRC: Third Day of Trial for Soldiers Charged After August 30th Protests in Goma

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In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Thursday marked the third day of the trial of six members of the Republican Guard (GR), including two senior officers. They stand accused of crimes against humanity, including murder, arms destruction, and incitement of soldiers to commit acts contrary to duty or discipline. These charges stem from the violent suppression of a protest in Goma on August 30th, which resulted in approximately fifty fatalities. The trial, held at the Goma military court located in Camp Katindo, primarily focused on procedural matters.

Defense attorneys for Colonel Mike Kalambayi Mikombe, one of the key defendants, raised concerns about what they perceive as a breach of the flagrancy procedure. They argued that their client should have appeared in court on the same day as the alleged offenses and that he may not receive a fair trial. Consequently, they requested that the court conduct a more thorough investigation.

Serge Lukanga, a member of the defense lawyer collective, emphasized the need to establish individual responsibilities: “Colonel Mike is merely the commander of a unit, the GR, and this unit operates within a designated operational zone overseen by authorities. Our foremost objective is to ensure that our client is not unfairly portrayed as the instigator or perpetrator and that people are not condemned based solely on political pressures.”

State Accountability

On the other hand, the plaintiffs point to the Congolese state’s responsibility for this tragic event. LĂ©opold Bagula, a member of the plaintiff’s legal team, emphasized the involvement of state resources: “The weapons they used were the property of the Congolese state, as were the vehicles. The Congolese state should be held civilly responsible because, during military recruitment, it should ideally exercise careful selection. What transpired on August 30th was wholly unacceptable, it appeared premeditated and resulted in a devastating loss of life.”

Thursday’s court session will witness the military court’s response to the concerns raised by the defense. The trial continues to be closely monitored as it unfolds, representing a crucial step toward justice and accountability for the tragic events that unfolded on that fateful August day in Goma.

Soukaina Sghir

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