After a two-year-long trial, hundreds of victims still need you in DRC!
A message from Elsa Taquet, Legal Advisor
“You robbed me of my childhood and killed my parents. Now you must answer for your crimes and face justice.”
It is with these words that Dimitri*, who became a child soldier at the age of 9, concluded his testimony, looking straight at his tormentor: the Congolese warlord “Sheka.” I remember that, in the courtroom specially designed to prevent the rebel chief from escaping, we all held our breath. The community had endured more than 4 years of terror and atrocities. No one could believe that Sheka—who remains very influential in the region—was, in fact, being prosecuted.
Having been on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since the beginning of the trial, I can tell you that the road to justice was long and difficult: two years of proceedings, testimony from hundreds of victims, procedural vagaries, and significant security challenges. The long wait for a verdict—even though it may be a sign that justice is being administered properly—is extremely difficult for victims.
As a legal advisor working on the ground, I support and accompany both victims and their lawyers. We must remember, despite the uncertainty that characterizes such complex cases, that justice is always possible.
Here, justice prevailed: no one is above the law. Not even Sheka. This is a huge victory for hundreds of victims. It also sends a strong message to other militiamen who have committed atrocities. But the fight is far from over. Enforcing the judgment will be a colossal challenge in the DRC, where court-ordered reparations are hardly ever paid to victims.
Elsa Taquet, Legal Advisor, Great Lakes Program
PS: Join us again in a few days to learn about the challenges encountered by our team in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Stay tuned!
*real name withheld