A military court in DR Congo’s volatile east sentenced 22 soldiers to death on Monday for “fleeing the enemy” during fighting with M23 rebels, a lawyer told AFP.

Sixteen soldiers were handed death sentences in one case in the North Kivu province, and six others in a separate case, just days after 25 soldiers received a similar judgement.

The latest sentences were handed down as M23 rebels, which Kinshasha accuses Rwanda of backing, last week seized new terrain on the northern front of the conflict that has been ongoing for two-and-a-half years in the North Kivu province.

A military court condemned 16 people to death in one case in the court in North Kivu.

The prosecution had asked on Saturday that 22 people in the case get the death penalty.

But the court on Monday instead handed down 10-year prison sentences to three defendants and acquitted three others.

In a separate case examined and judged on Monday in North Kivu, six of the seven defendants were sentenced to death and one person was acquitted, lawyer Jules Muvweko told AFP.

The lawyer said he intends to appeal the sentencing.


Last week, a court sentenced 25 soldiers to death during a one day trial for also “fleeing the enemy”, lawyers said.

A total of 31 defendants, including 27 soldiers and four of their civilian wives, appeared before the Butembo garrison military court in North Kivu, near the front line.

The other accused, including the four women, were acquitted for lack of evidence, Muvweko said.

Since the end of last week, the M23 (March 23 movement) have taken several towns on the northern front of the conflict.

Their gains include the strategic town of Kanyabayonga, which is seen as a gateway to the major commercial centres of Butembo and Beni.

The M23 have also seized vast swathes of territory over the past several years, almost completely encircling Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, killing scores of people and displacing hundreds of thousands more.

There are already 2.8 million displaced people in North Kivu, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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