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ICC's Khan calls for 'new way' to tackle DR Congo war crimes

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan meets DRC doctor Mukwege won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Karim Khan called on Monday for "a new way of working" to tackle war crimes in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Armed groups have plagued much of mineral-rich eastern DRC for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s, and underreported conflicts simmer elsewhere in the vast central African nation.

The ICC, operating since 2002, launched its first investigations in the northeastern Ituri region in 2004.

The court since handed down three final sentences for crimes committed in the DRC.

"We've had cases, we've had convictions -- but there is a truth staring at us in the face... the rapes have not stopped, the crimes have not stopped," Khan told reporters after meeting Denis Mukwege.

Mukwege won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work on behalf of rape victims, and the two met at his hospital in Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu province.

The ICC prosecutor, who also planned to visit Ituri, will complete his stay in the DRC in Kinshasa where he will meet with the authorities.

"The message is: we need to find a new way of working in my view, not in the same way that we've been doing since 2004," the prosecutor said.

He called for "stronger partnership" between the government, provincial governors, civil society, the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations to show a common will to put an end to crimes.

Mukwege did not speak publicly during the visit, but has consistently called for an end to impunity and for "transitional justice" to stop the spiral of violence that has plagued eastern DRC since the 1990s.

In the courtyard of his hospital, representatives of victims had gathered to welcome the ICC prosecutor, holding banners calling for justice.

"SOS Justice -- we mourn our innocent brothers and sisters massacred en masse during the so-called liberation wars," read one of the signs.

"At the ICC, we are only asking for justice," Felix Bafulwa, 63, whose father and brother were killed on October 28, 1996, told AFP.

Neema Cikambasi, 43, recalled how rebels killed 11 members of her family that same day in October 1996.

"The people killed were all buried in three mass graves."

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