GOMA, June 26, 2015 – The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) held a seminar for Congolese military and civilian magistrates on June 24 and 25, 2015, to discuss a national strategy for prosecuting international crimes and prioritizing cases to clear the backlog in national courts. The seminar aimed to examine and propose solutions for why so many well-documented crimes committed by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remain unaddressed.
The event brought together magistrates from the High Council of the Magistrates, the High Military Court and Military Attorney-General’s Office, as well as all military courts and tribunals from North Kivu.
According to ICTJ research discussed at the seminar, the number of open investigations related to international crimes in the DRC remains very low, compared to the large number of atrocities committed in the country, particularly in the eastern region.
“We found that national prosecutions of serious crimes show a lack of strategy and prioritization in selecting cases, although this is essential to ensuring an effective response when resources are limited, as they are in the DRC,” said Myriam Raymond-Jetté, ICTJ’s Criminal Justice Program Officer in DRC.
As a first step, participants agreed on the need for a comprehensive mapping of incidents committed since 2003. Contextual analysis was also identified as crucial for identifying the highest-ranking individuals responsible for crimes, so that an effective deterrence policy could be formulated.
Participants also discussed the ICTJ finding that from 2009 to 2014 judicial authorities in the DRC opened just 39 cases related to events constituting international crimes that had occurred between 2002 and 2014 in eastern DRC (Ituri, North Kivu, and South Kivu).
According to ICTJ research, because of international pressure on national jurisdictions, cases of sexual violence are more likely to be prosecuted than other crimes. Indeed, until recently, no cases dealing with other serious crimes in eastern DRC, such as enlistment, conscription or use of children in hostilities, and pillaging of natural resources, were initiated.
Seminar participants discussed the importance of a national prosecutorial strategy to tackle the multitude of crimes committed by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and other armed groups against civilians.
“A strategy for prosecuting international crimes is critical to increasing the population’s confidence in the national judicial system,” said Raymond-Jetté. “Without it, magistrates will continue to face serious obstacles to advancing the rule of law and ending impunity in the DRC. "We are convinced that with this workshop will contribute to an effective implementation of laws related to prosecution of international crimes and other serious crimes committed in the DRC in general and in North Kivu in particular," added Christophe Ndibeshe Byemero, Provincial Minister of Justice and Human Rights in North Kivu.
The seminar was organized by ICTJ, in cooperation with the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office and the United Nations Development Programme, with the financial support of the European Union.
PHOTO: Participants at the conference included Auditeur Opérationnel of North Kivu (NK) and General Major Bivegete of the High Military Court of the DRC. (ICTJ Photo)