FILE image of a court gavel.
JOHANNESBURG – A Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) military tribunal has convicted 134 rebels, mostly from the Ugandan Allied Democratic Front (ADF), of involvement in a wave of massacres in eastern Congo which killed more than 800 people, Reuters reported.
READ: DR Congo blocks internet
CEPADHO, a human rights group that observed the trials, said that of those convicted - a mix of ADF rebels, militia fighters, civilians and local chiefs - 42 were sentenced to death, several of them in absentia.
However, in practice, the DRC does not apply the death sentence so those convicted will serve lengthy prison services instead.
Wednesday’s conviction followed massacres near the town of Beni on the DRC’s border with Uganda between 2014 and 2016 with many of those hacked to death with machetes during the night.
General Timothee Mukutu, the DRC army’s First Advocate-General, said a portion of the earlier massacres were committed by Islamist ADF fighters during supply raids or in reprisal attacks.
However, DRC forces, specifically army officers, have also been involved in atrocities against and the killings of civilians, including those carried out by proxy on the orders of certain local figures.
And rebel and militia attacks are once again spiking in central and eastern DRC, tying in with a political crisis brought on by incumbent President Joseph Kabilia’s refusal to step down despite his term in office ending in December 2016.
Meanwhile, DRC troops are battling the ADF in the eastern border zones in coordination with the Ugandan military.