UN says life terms for DRCongo child rapists a 'major advance'

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The UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo Saturday hailed as a "major advance" life sentences served this week on a provincial lawmaker and ten militiamen convicted of raping young girls.

The group were jailed for life on Wednesday in the east of the country for raping about 40 children, including a baby, in what was judged as 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 "unprecedented trial and the ruling constitute a major advance in the fight against impunity for sexual violence," said Maman Sidikou, the head of MONUSCO, the UN's peacekeeping mission in the country.

Sidikou said this was "an encouraging sign for the numerous victims of sexual violence and other grave rights transgressions" and showed that "nobody is above the law."

The children, ranging from a baby to a 12-year-old girl, were kidnapped and raped between 2013 and 2016.