Context

TRIAL International is active since 2014 in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bordering on Rwanda and Burundi, this zone is the one most affected by the conflict. Incessant fighting has been going on there since 1994 between the armed rebel factions and the national security forces. Civilians have often come under attack and tens of thousands of victims have been left in its wake.

The genocide of 1994 in Rwanda has had tragic repercussions in eastern DRC. Over a period of 20 years, DRC’s civil war has caused millions of direct and indirect victims, making it the deadliest conflict since the end of World War II. In many places, armed groups and national security forces are still tearing each other apart to gain control of the territory. Greed for its ample mining and agricultural resources make it all the more vulnerable.

The judicial system remains highly dysfunctional, and impunity remains widespread for state and non-state actors alike. The remoteness of certain areas and the poor infrastructures make it particularly difficult for crimes to get reported and documented.

What does TRIAL International do in DRC?

TRIAL International operates in Eastern DRC within international civil society networks. Its work and expertise complement that of the other actors’, for instance in security, forensics or peace-building. All work to reinforce the capacity of the Congolese state to prosecute mass crimes.

©Phil Moore_DRC_PEM_COD_SAKE_MUGUNGA_3814
The conflict in DRC has triggered mass population displacements. ©Phil Moore

Bringing justice to victims

TRIAL International takes up cases involving one to several hundred victims. All support comes free-of-charge for the victims, and may include medical and psychological care when needed. It is also one of the few NGOs helping victims receive reparations.

While TRIAL International privileges domestic proceedings, it also litigates cases before international mechanisms.

Capacity-building for local practitioners

TRIAL International offers long- and short-term training programs for judicial actors from DRC and neighboring countries. Over the years, it has trained lawyers, magistrates, investigators, grassroot NGOs and individual human rights defenders.

Each year, a 12-months coaching program destined to lawyers offers an individualized, in-depth training on mass crimes litigation. Covering national, regional and international procedures, it combines theoretical inputs with real-cases applications. At the end of their training, lawyers often stay involved with TRIAL’s ongoing cases.

Fighting impunity

In eastern DRC, both rebel armed groups and the army are responsible for gross human rights violations. TRIAL International believes that no one should be above the law, and has therefore brought cases against warlordspolicemen, army officers and politicians alike.

See also: TRIAL International in Burundi

Local structures

TRIAL International opened its office in Bukavu (South Kivu) in 2014, and its office in Goma (North Kivu) opened in 2018. Both are staffed mainly by Congolese nationals.

2017 Country Facts
610
new victims represented
10
new cases at domestic level
165
legal practitioners trained