In Kasai (DRC), law and medicine work hand in hand towards higher accountability
For its first venture in the Kasai region, TRIAL International has partnered with the medical NGO Physicians for Human Rights. The objective? Strengthening access to justice through a combination of legal and medical expertise.
Building on its successful experiences in Eastern DRC, TRIAL International is extending its actions in the countryto Kasai -a region on the border with Angola plagued by violence.
To tackle the scale and gravity of the crimes committed there, it has developed a partnership with Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an NGO using medical evidence to document human rights abuse. The project will run until 2022 and should bring hundreds of beneficiaries closer to justice and redress.
“Our first collaboration with PHR on the Kavumu case proved that medical and forensic expertise greatly contributes to the fight against impunity” explains Guy Mushiata, TRIAL International’s National Coordinator in DRC. “We now hope to reiterate this successful collaboration in Kasai, where so many victims are still suffering from the lack of justice.”
Complementary expertise, delivered free of charge
Together, TRIAL International and PHR are deploying their resources, as well as their legal and technical expertise, to assist victims of international crimes seeking justice. All help is delivered free of charge to survivors of all origins, ethnicities, languages and religions. A specific focus is placed on victims of sexual and gender-based violence.
Additionally, both organizations train a wide range of practitioners from Kasai. Capacity-building efforts reach out to lawyers and judges, medical personnel, human rights defenders and local NGOs, police officers and prosecutors -to name but a few.
Mistrust and fear still hinder the justice process
Between 2016 and 2017, Kasai saw one of the most dramatic escalations of violence in Congolese history. This violence resulted in the murder of over 3’000 people, and over 80 mass graves have already been discovered. Thousands of victims of torture and rape have also been reported.
Notwithstanding these figures, fear of stigmatization -especially for crimes of sexual violence -and a general feeling of mistrust towards the justice system explain a surprisingly low number of criminal cases. TRIAL and PHR hope to change these attitudes and prove that justice is within reach.
“Our organizations have different mandates, but from the victims’ point of view they are part of a coherent whole: ensuring they receive the best and most holistic care; documenting the crimes in a comprehensive but respectful manner; training local practitioners so that they can emulate best practice. All these elements go towards making justice more efficient and more accessible” summarizes Daniele Perissi, Head of the Great Lakes Program at TRIAL International.
The Kasai remains one of the least developed regions in DRC. Despite an abundance of natural resources, the economy of the region has been in ruins for decades due to the State’s low investment in basic services, fostering extreme poverty and chronic underdevelopment.