There were not many of us leftin the church by then – four women, three older women, and me – and some children. The soldiers raped all four of us. They hit me with a stick twice. They said we were stupid for obeying the RCD and said they would save the Congolese people. They were in the church for about thirty minutes and then took off .
The other women who were raped were old, and they can't speak of it. I have no one to help me, and I have nothing left . There is no health facility in Massanga, so I couldn't get medical help. I still have a lot of pain […]. (Natalie R, Eastern Congo)
Sexual violence against women has been a recurrent feature of armed conflicts throughout history, and as the above quote demonstrates, still occurs daily in on-going conflicts. This is also evidenced by the alarming reports of the scale of sexual violence being committed against women in areas such as Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Ivory Coast. The attacks against women are generally gender related and may include crimes such as sexual assaults, rape, sexual mutilations, sexual slavery, forced prostitution and forced impregnation.
Restorative justice has recently emerged as an increasingly important alternative to traditional punitive justice both during and after conflict and in peacetime. There are a number of on-going theoretical and normative debates as well as practical experiences being made around the world attempting to apply this innovative approach to justice. Some of these experiences have failed. Others have encountered problems, causing such approaches to be seriously put into question. Nevertheless, for its broader vision of the causes and consequences of crime; for its humane approach to victims, perpetrators and communities; and for its potential for accountability, deterrence, and reconciliation, restorative justice needs to be examined in a post-conflict context.
Some of the aspects of restorative justice in its stricter meaning may not be relevant or appropriate for dealing with sexual crimes in armed conflicts. Nevertheless, there are many aspects of this type of justice, which I believe to be suitable and even crucial to be taken into account in a transitional justice context, that is to say in giving it a broader appeal.