ICTJ Report Finds Slow Progress in Prosecuting International Crimes in Eastern DRC; Prosecution Strategy Is Needed to Address Large Scale of Violations


GOMA, July 17, 2015 — A new report by the International Center for Transitional Justice analyzes the Congolese judicial authorities’ response to international crimes committed in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 2009 to 2014, with a particular focus on the war-torn east (North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri). It finds that the number of open investigations into international crimes is very low compared to the large number of atrocities being committed.

The DRC has been plagued by conflict and political crises since the 1990s. Despite the signing of multiple peace agreements in recent years, armed groups such as the FRPI and the FDLR continue to operate in the east, committing serious human rights violations against civilians in their struggle for power and resources.

The new ICTJ report, titled The Accountability Landscape in Eastern DRC: Analysis of the National Legislative and Judicial Response to International Crimes (2009–2014), shows that Congolese laws and courts have not kept up with the scale of violations.

“There has been a huge amount of suffering in the DRC, with these wars being the deadliest since World War II,” said David Tolbert, president of ICTJ. “Strengthening the state’s ability to respond to international crimes is a critical step toward restoring victims’ rights, entrenching the rule of law and ensuring that abuses won’t happen again.”

Research and interviews conducted by ICTJ found that between January 2009 and December 2014 judicial authorities in the DRC opened just 39 cases related to alleged international crimes committed from 2009 to 2014 in eastern DRC. This is only a slight improvement over the previous period (1993-2003), when military courts dealt with just 12 cases related to such crimes.

Even with the limited number of cases initiated by prosecutors from 2009 to 2014, the majority of cases have not progressed beyond the investigation stage.

According to the ICTJ report, Congolese judicial authorities face significant obstacles to pursuing justice. These include ambiguous laws on international crimes, political interference, lack of access to crime scenes (where armed groups operate), and international pressure to pursue certain cases.

For instance, cases involving sexual violence, like the Minova Case, are more likely to be prosecuted than those involving other types of crimes. Until recently, no cases were initiated into other international crimes common in eastern DRC, such as enlistment, conscription or use of children in hostilities, and pillaging of natural resources. ICTJ research suggests that this is partly due to international pressure on national jurisdictions to prioritize certain cases over others.

“To be effective, Congolese judicial authorities need a well-thought-out approach to prosecuting international crimes, especially because resources are limited,” said Myriam Raymond-Jetté, ICTJ’s Criminal Justice Program Officer in the DRC. “Without it, Congolese courts will continue to be bogged down with superficial inquiries and non-specific arrest warrants and, ultimately, acquittals for lack of evidence.”

The ICTJ report offers recommendations to the Congolese government and international partners for how to advance the prosecution of international crimes in the national courts. At the top of the list are accelerating Parliament’s adoption of key legislation in the fight against impunity — and undertaking a comprehensive mapping of international crimes committed between 2003 and 2014.

*The full report is available in English and French. The publication was funded by the European Union and Humanity United.

About ICTJ

The International Center for Transitional Justice works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit www.ictj.org


Myriam Raymond-Jetté, Criminal Justice Program Officer, ICTJ
E-mail: mraymond-jette@ictj.org

PHOTO: Mobile court, Fizi crimes against humanity trial, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2011. (OSISA)