BRUSSELS (AP) — Congolese Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege has urged European Union nations to bring people accused of war crimes and other major abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo to justice.
Speaking to EU lawmakers via video-link on Monfsy, Mukwege called on member states to use the principle of “universal jurisdiction.” This allows victims in a country to file complaints abroad, notably in the case of war crimes, in order to “bring to justice and extradite those behind the most serious of crimes.”
“Realpolitik and the lack of political will have taken priority for too long over needs and the thirst for justice and truth. In this context, massacres are continuing with complete impunity,” said Mukwege, who recently received death threats for his work as a human rights defender.
In November, the International Criminal Court passed its highest ever sentence when it sent a Congolese warlord known as “The Terminator” to prison for 30 years for crimes including murder, rape and sexual slavery.
Bosco Ntaganda was found guilty of 18 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role as a military commander in atrocities during a bloody ethnic conflict in a mineral-rich region of Congo in 2002-2003.
The Hague-based court was set up to prosecute atrocities around the world where national authorities are unable or unwilling to hold trials. It has faced opposition and criticism, most notably from the United States, which is not a member state of the court.
The Nobel laureate did not directly discuss the threats against him, but he did call for assistance for other rights defenders whose voices are being silenced and who do not benefit from the same public profile that he has.
“It’s very important to create an alert system so that even those human rights defenders hidden in the farthest corners of the country, doing marvellous work ensuring that their people do not suffer atrocities, can be protected as well,” Mukwege said.
Last week, the United Nations human rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, called for a quick investigation into the death threats against Mukwege, praising him as a “true hero” for his work. Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has made a public commitment to ensure Mukwege’s security.
Mukwege founded a hospital in eastern Congo that is renowned for its work treating survivors of sexual violence.