It was the number of unidentified bodies bearing signs of torture arriving at the morgue that made Cherie*, a nurse at Kinshasa’s General Hospital, get involved in politics. As part of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress Party (UDPS), the main opposition party in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), she handed out leaflets and took part in protests. In December 2009, the 20-year-old was arrested after attending a memorial service for activists who had been killed. For two weeks she was kept in the detention centre of the Rapid Intervention Police (Police d’intervention rapide, PIR).
She says she was beaten and raped on four separate occasions, once by three policemen at a time.
“It’s as if I lost a part of myself,” she says quietly. She was released after signing papers promising to stop any political activism.
Cherie has been in the UK since 2013. She is a witness in a report compiled by the UK human rights organisation Freedom From Torture based on the accounts and medical examination of 74 Congolese men and women who escaped detention and fled to the UK between 2013 and 2018.