Access to reparations remains an almost insurmountable obstacle for victims of serious crimes seeking justice in DRC. A bill aiming to make it easier for them to uphold this right was introduced in the Senate several months ago. Guy Mushiata, Human Rights Coordinator in DRC for TRIAL International, calls on the new president, Félix Tshisekedi, to make this matter a priority during his term.
“In the DRC, there have been no redress pay-outs for mass crimes to date. This is despite several judgments ordering the Congolese State to pay compensation. This is also the case with sexual violence, even though victims are counted in tens of thousands.
It is in order to fill this gap that a bill was presented to Parliament several months ago. To make it easier for victims of sexual violence to receive compensations, it proposes to create a National Reparations Commission.”
A promising project
“Certain aspects of this bill are particularly promising. Firstly, the fact that the compensation claims would be examined through an administrative channel, rather than a legal one, would mean that they are no longer conditional upon a guilty verdict or even the identification of the perpetrators. This is a big step forward considering that crimes of sexual violence are too rarely brought before the courts.
In addition, the National Reparations Commission would also have the role of facilitating the enforcement of court rulings. Should reparations be ordered following a criminal trial, the Commission would support victims until the ruling has been enforced – a process that TRIAL knows to be long and complicated.
Finally, the bill currently only concerns victims of sexual violence, but it could be extended at a later stage to other mass crimes. The need is immense, and the Congolese authorities have too often avoided their obligation to provide redress, even though it is enshrined in Congolese and international law.”
Adoption of the law is still a way off
“The lack of political will and resources has already delayed consideration of the bill. Other factors, such as the chaotic electoral context in the DRC, have buried it altogether.
Now, as the change of government also involves a change of legislature, all current bills must be reintroduced in Parliament. It is essential that this particular bill is reintroduced as soon as possible, preferably by the government itself. By using its power to initiate legislation, it would give real symbolic weight to the bill.
Félix Tshisekedi has made strengthening the rule of law an important aspect of his electoral campaign. In his inauguration speech, he repeated that he would seek ‘to guarantee that every citizen’s fundamental rights are respected’. Supporting the adoption of the law on reparations would translate this promise in concrete terms and restore confidence among countless victims, as well as the entire Congolese population.”