DR Congo: Soldiers, civilians sentenced to death for selling arms

Those sentenced were found guilty of criminal association, war crimes, and participation in an insurrectional movement.

A military court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has sentenced to death eight soldiers and three civilians for selling arms to a violent rebel group.

At a public hearing on Friday, court president Colonel Kelly Dianga sentenced the eight soldiers, including three officers, after they were found guilty of criminal association, war crimes, and participation in an insurrectional movement.

The three civilians – two women and a man – were also sentenced to death for involvement in the affair, the court president said, while two civilians received 10-year jail terms. Another soldier and a civilian were acquitted for lack of evidence.

While the DRC has observed a de facto moratorium on capital punishment since 2003, courts continue to hand down death sentences, according to the United Nations.

The trial opened in the country’s conflict-torn Ituri province last month with the suspects facing charges of supplying rifles and ammunition to the notorious CODECO group, which has been blamed for a slew of ethnic massacres.

CODECO – the Cooperative for the Development of the Congo – is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

The Lendu and Hema communities have had a longstanding feud and before the intervention of European peacekeepers, thousands of people died between 1999 and 2003. Violence, including civilian massacres, has resumed since 2017 with the blame placed on the emergence of CODECO.

Separately, soldiers patrolling by the Ituri river, in the Irumu territory of Ituri province, discovered 17 decapitated bodies on Thursday, according to Red Cross representative David Beiza.

A Red Cross team later visited the area with soldiers and found the bodies, said Beiza, adding that rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) are suspected of being responsible for the killings.

Agence France-Presse was also unable to independently verify the information.

More than 120 armed groups roam the eastern region of the DRC where civilian massacres are common.

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