One hundred and forty six NGOs, including 2 ICRtoP Members, sign a joint statement calling for the establishment of a Specialized Mixed Chambers and adoption of ICC Implementing Legislation in Democratic Republic of Congo
Democratic Republic of Congo: No More Delays for Justice
1 April 2014
The 146 undersigned Congolese civil society and international human rights organizations welcome recent commitments by authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure justice for war crimes and crimes against humanity. They call on the government to press for adoption of the draft law establishing Specialized Mixed Chambers and the draft law implementing the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the current parliamentary session, which began on March 15, 2014.
Repeated cycles of violence and impunity over the past two decades, particularly in eastern Congo, have resulted in the deaths of an estimated five million people from violence, hunger and lack of medical care. National armed forces from Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and numerous non-state armed groups have carried out massacres, summary executions, rape, torture, forced recruitment of children, and pillaging and burning of homes.
While there has been some progress with national and international trials, the vast majority of the perpetrators of these crimes remain unpunished. The trials that have taken place in Congo’s military courts have faced numerous challenges, including with regards to the quality of investigations, protection of victims and witnesses, respect of the rights of the accused, and ability to prosecute senior level commanders most responsible for the crimes.
The creation of a new mechanism within the Congolese judicial system to prosecute these crimes, and adoption of the ICC implementing legislation into Congolese law, could go a long way in finally bringing justice to victims and their families who feel forgotten and abandoned, despite unimaginable suffering. These decisive and concrete steps to fight impunity would also send a strong warning to rebel leaders and military commanders that serious crimes will not go unpunished—and hopefully help bring an end to Congo’s history of rampant abuse.
Specialized Mixed Chambers
In October 2013, President Joseph Kabila, in a speech to both chambers of Parliament, stressed the importance of fighting impunity for atrocities committed against civilians in Congo. To that end, he expressed his support for the creation of specialized chambers in the national justice system. The cabinet of the Minister of Justice and Human Rights has prepared a draft law, which is currently under consideration by the government.
The proposed specialized mixed chambers are not an international tribunal. Instead, the chambers will be embedded in the appeals courts of the Congolese national justice system. They will have jurisdiction only over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and will thus concentrate expertise and resources on investigating and prosecuting these very complex crimes. The presence during the initial years of international staff with extensive experience in the prosecution of international crimes will provide on-the-job training for national staff and reinforce the independence of the chambers from potential political and military interference.
The establishment of specialized mixed chambers was first proposed by Congolese civil society organizations from Ituri district in northeastern Congo during an audit of the Congolese justice system organized by the European Union in 2004. In October 2010, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published a comprehensive report on grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law between 1993 and 2003 in Congo (the Mapping Report), which embraced the recommendation to create specialized mixed chambers within the national justice system.
Read the full statement and list of signatories here.