A dozen militiamen in eastern DR Congo were jailed for life Wednesday for raping about 40 children, including a baby, in what was judged a crime against humanity.
The defendants were said to belong to a militia group called "Djeshi ya Yesu" -- meaning "Army of Jesus" in Swahili -- led by South Kivu provincial lawmaker Frederic Batumike.
The children, ranging from babies aged just eight months to a 12-year-old girl, were kidnapped and raped between 2013 and 2016.
A large crowd gathered in the area before Batumike and the 11 others were convicted by the military tribunal and "sentenced to life in prison for the crime against humanity by rape and murder".
The verdict was delivered in a packed courtroom, concluding a trial that began on November 9 in Kavumu, South Kivu.
The sentences are considered a victory for campaigners fighting a culture of impunity often said to exist against the pursuit of justice for victims of sexual crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"For too long those who commit rape in the Congo have thought they were invincible," said Physicians Against Human Rights, an NGO.
"Slowly, there are signs that impunity is not inevitable."
Many of the assaults happened at night, according to Congolese surgeon Denis Mukwege, who had sounded the alarm.