In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the fight against impunity continues
Access to justice is more crucial than ever to ease the existing tensions in the North and South Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which have been torn apart by violence for decades. On 21 and 23 May 2019, Lawyers Without Borders (Avocats Sans Frontières, or ASF), RCN Justice & Démocratie (RCN) and TRIAL International launched a shared project to fight impunity in those regions. Two workshops, held in Goma and Bukavu, gathered over a hundred people playing a part in the prosecution of international crimes.
In North and South Kivu, many human rights violations stem from conflicting attempts to secure natural resources, regional rivalries and ethnic tensions. Although hundreds of victims already saw their perpetrators prosecuted and punished between 2016 and 2018, there is much more to be done for all the people responsible to be brought to justice and all the victims to receive reparation.
“Promoting efforts to fight against impunity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo” is a three-years project funded by the European Union meant to foster access to justice for people and communities that fell victim to international crimes.
A response that matches the stakes
“The intervention benefits from the joint experience and expertise of our three organizations, which makes for a fitting response to the stakes identified in the region, whether one is looking at the demand for justice or its delivery”, according to Gilles Durdu, ASF’s Country Director.
“The key to success lies in increased coordination, not only among our organizations but also among all the people involved in that sector”, Daniele Perissi, Head of the Great Lakes program at TRIAL International, corroborates. “Together, we hope to devise a truly efficient national strategy in order to prosecute the gravest crimes.”
The workshops used to launch the project were precisely designed to allow the players who had been invited to reflect on the current stakes and challenges in the fight against impunity and international crimes in DRC, as well as to reassert the importance of a joint operation to promote a holistic response.
Joel Phalip, Head of Mission for RCN, specifies that “part of that response will be to reinforce the technical capacities at the disposal of the justice professionals, including civilian and military courts and tribunals. We also wish to increase the involvement of the victims in all the steps of the lawsuits and their collaboration with the judicial actors.”
A shared will to join forces
The people attending the workshops also underscored the importance of coordination and collaboration in the sector, as Walid Henia, Military Investigation Advisor at MONUSCO and the person in charge of the Bukavu Task Force, remarks. He said: “We need to work together, to join forces and act as one to provide the judicial authorities with better support in the fight for the victims against impunity in severe or mass crimes.”
“We must find tools and means to coordinate our knowledge and the ways that we act together”,two other participants added. “For greater transparency, we truly need to collaborate, all of us – courts and tribunals, NGOs, civil society organizations, technical and financial partners, the media… This will allow us to do away with many clichés and stereotypes attached to justice and the prosecution of international penal crimes, and to recreate trust with the people.”