A Congolese military court has upheld the rape convictions of eight policemen and 11 soldiers, a court official told AFP Tuesday.

The judgment, which was handed down on Monday, means they will serve between 12 months and 20 years in jail.

The rapes were committed mainly against minors, according to the court in South Kivu province, in the troubled far east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The defendants were also ordered to pay damages and interest, sources said.

"This appeal trial has been exemplary for women's rights," Innocent Mayembe Sangala, a top official of the South Kivu military court, told AFP.

Congolese justice was "extremely rigorous regarding rape, especially the rape of children," he said.

Victims included children ranging in age from 3 months to 17 years, Sangala told AFP, adding that they included "women who were torn away from their husbands or raped in front of their brothers or children."

The atrocities were "so savage" that the court could not be lenient, Sangala said.

The rapes were committed between 2016 and 2021 in several South Kivu towns.

Source: Voice of America