From Doctor to Defender: How Dr Mukwege took charge of his patients, human rights and protection

Prior to receiving the Prix Solidarité prize in Belgium this Thursday 16 October, Dr Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynaecologist and world renowned expert on repairing rape patients internal physical damage, had the chance to sit down with longstanding partner organisation Protection International (PI) and explain how through his work, he evolved from a doctor to a defender of human rights – and the security risks that came along with this transformation.

Together with PI, an organisation that works to improve the protection of human rights defenders, Dr Mukwege was able to address these security issues in a preemptive, concise and organised manner; therefore reclaiming his right to protect himself.

Two years ago Dr Mukwege survived an assassination attempt after condemning the continued use of sexual violence by forces fighting to control the country’s vast mineral wealth.

In 1999, Mukwege set up the Panzi hospital in eastern DR Congo, where he is helping women that have been subjected to sexual violence.

On 22 October, Dr Mukwege was announced the winner of the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The prize would make rape survivors in DR Congo “feel they are not alone”, Mukwege said to the BBC. There were also tributes for Ukrainian and Azerbaijani democracy and rights defenders.