After death threats against Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, UN rights office expresses deep concern

(Photo: Private collection / D. Mukwege)Dr. Denis Mukwege, who gave a keynote speech at the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Namibia on May 11, 2017.

The UN human rights chief is deeply concerned over the recent death threats directed at the Congolese human rights defender and Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege, who bases his work on his Christian faith.

"Dr. Mukwege is a true hero – determined, courageous and extremely effective," said High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

"For years, he helped thousands of gravely injured and traumatized women when there was nobody else to take care of them, and at the same time he did a great deal to publicize their plight and stimulate others to try to grapple with the uncontrolled epidemic of sexual violence in the eastern DRC," she said on Aug. 28.

Mukwege has been a strong and consistent voice calling for those responsible for sexual violence to be brought to justice said the rights office.

He was a staunch supporter of the 2010 'Mapping Report' by the UN Human Rights Office which chronicled hundreds of serious human rights violations and abuses that occurred in the eastern DRC between 1993 and 2003, in many cases identifying the groups and entities believed to be responsible for perpetrating the crimes.

However he has received deaths threats in the past and survived a major assassination attempt in October 2012.

"The recent alarming surge of threats against Dr Mukwege, which have been conveyed via social media and in direct phone calls to him and his family, followed his condemnation of the continued killing of civilians in eastern DRC and his renewed calls for accountability for human rights violations and abuses," said the UN office.

Human Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said, "It difficult to say at this point precisely who's behind these death threats. But it seems they may be connected to the conflict in the high plateau of South Kivu, which is pitted the Banyamulenge a community against three other communities.

"The threats also may be connected to his repeated calls for accountability for past and present grave human rights violations in these two years."

Mukwege gave a keynote address to the Lutheran World Federation Assembly in Windhoek, Namibia on May 11, 2017

"It is up to us, the heirs of Martin Luther, through God's word, to exorcise all the macho demons possessing the world so that women who are victims of male barbarity can experience the reign of God in their lives," said Mukwege in that speech.


The son of a pastor, Mukwege said his involvement with the voiceless is rooted in his family history and when he was with his father on a visit to the sick one day he asked him, "Dad, you pray to the sick, but why not give them medicine?"

His father replied, "I'm not a doctor."

His vocation was born that day and he studied pediatric medicine to assist in the eradication of infant mortality.

"Alas, during my first year of medical practice, I discovered the very high incidence of maternal mortality."

The Congolese doctor noted that violence against women, rape and misogyny are not only found in Africa, but all around the world. Mukwege spoke of the incessant conflict in the DRC, creating massive upheaval "motivated by the need to control the Congolese subsoil.

"This war, which initially engaged seven African states, and the so-called first great African war is not ethnic," and does not embroil religious fanatics.

"It is an economic war that has already caused more than five million deaths and thousands and thousands of women being raped."

The Congolese doctor said the first response to "this barbarity" was to try to treat women who were victims of physical and psychological sexual violence.

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