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DRC: Latest Statements; Updates on Trials and Cases; News and Opinions
04 Aug 2011
Please find below information about recent developments related to the International Criminal Court's (ICC) investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This message includes latest media statements by members of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court and the ICC (I); updates on current ICC cases relating to the ICC’s DRC investigations (II); as well as related news and opinions (III).
Please take note of the Coalition's policy on situations before the ICC (below), which explicitly states that the CICC will not take a position on potential and current situations before the Court or situations under analysis. The Coalition, however, will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC.
I. MEDIA STATEMENTS
A. COALITION MEMBERS STATEMENTS
i. “Message of the Coalition of DRC for the ICC on 17 July 2011” CN-CPI/RDC, 17 July 2011, http://www.coalitionfortheicc.org/documents/message_de_la_Coalition_de_la_RDC_pour_la_CPI_le_17_jullet_2011.pdf (In French)
“…The Coalition notes that the DRC should celebrate this day in particular. “Not only because it belongs to the first States parties to the Rome Statute, explained Mr. Kazadi, but also because it has shown an exemplary cooperation which was however stopped subsequently. The Coalition wishes to see this cooperation continue with the arrest and surrender of Bosco Ntaganda to the Court”….
... The Coalition… has in recent years, focused its advocacy on the adoption of a law implementing the ICC Rome Statute in support of the draft law submitted to the Parliament in 2008. The inclusion of this draft bill - considered admissible by the National Assembly - to the agenda of the Assembly sessions has to date been delayed several times.
"The Coalition calls for this purpose the honorable deputies to make the fight against impunity for serious crimes a priority by adopting this draft law which is at this stage altered by the Parliamentary Commission on political, administrative and legal issues of the National Assembly. This will allow the country to honor its commitment to the Rome Statute,” explained Désiré-Israel Kazadi, spokesperson of the DRC National Coalition.
... The adoption of this legislation will help:
1. Harmonize the rule of law and criminal procedure in Congo with international standards as contained in the Rome Statute;
2. Adapt the relevant provisions of the Rome Statute which can be applied immediately following clarification in the legislation;
3. Ensure that international legal instruments relating to human rights are upheld;
4. Facilitate the work of the Congolese judiciary by gathering the relevant provisions of the Rome Statute and documents which serve as a supplement in a single text appropriate to the context Congolese justice;
5. Transfer to civil courts the exclusive jurisdiction over serious international crimes in accordance with international law. Jurisdiction to try such crimes has been so far assigned to military courts under the Military Penal Code of 2002. The courts of law cannot therefore try these crimes although they are the guarantors of the rights and freedoms of citizens of a country. This transfer of exclusive jurisdiction over the Rome Statute crimes would not necessarily exclude the participation of military judges in trials of international crimes before ordinary courts.
The adoption of this law will enable the DRC justice system to fully perform its primary role to prosecute [crimes] while the ICC would only play the role of a court of last resort when the state is unable or unwilling to do so. ... "
SEE ALSO :
ii. “Journée de la justice internationale : la CN-CPI/RDC invite la Rdc à accélérer le processus d’adoption de la loi de mise en œuvre du Statut de la CPI (International Justice Day: the CN-CPI/RDC invite the DRC to expedite the adoption of the law implementing the ICC Statute),” Digital Congo, 13 July 2011, http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/77021 (In French)
B. ICC STATEMENTS
1. “Closing of the regional academic seminar organised by the ICC in Kinshasa: working together for a sustainable partnership with universities” ICC Press release, 6 June 2011 http://www.icc-cpi.int/menus/icc/press and media/press releases/news and highlights/pr683?lan=en-GB
“From 4 to 9 June 2011, eleven lecturers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) took part in a seminar on international criminal law and the International Criminal Court (ICC) organised by the ICC in Kinshasa, the DRC. The seminar was held in cooperation with the Université Paul-Cézanne Aix-Marseille III and with the financial assistance of the European Union which, to the same end, will fund the organisation of a second regional seminar in Kampala in Uganda in July 2011 for English-speaking academics of Kenya and Uganda, where the Court is also active.
The seminar is part of the academic programme of the ICC’s Information and Documentation Section. Its main objective was to encourage and involve universities in the countries where the Court is conducting investigations to design and incorporate in-depth and specialised courses on international law and the ICC into their syllabuses.
Several major universities of the DRC and the CAR, two countries where the ICC is conducting investigations, were approached to designate law lecturers to represent them at the seminar. The lecturers were afforded the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics relating to the theory and practice of international criminal justice. They also exchanged views on the various teaching methods, resources and tools needed to teach the course.
“This seminar enabled lecturers to forge a common position on what should be taught in the new and fast-growing discipline of international criminal law,” one of the lecturers participating in the seminar, Professor Alexis N’Dui –Yabela of the Université de Bangui, explained. His colleague from the Université Technologique Bel, Kinshasa Campus, Professor Don José Muanda, stated: “the discussions during the seminar helped to shed light on practical issues such as the powers of the Prosecutor of the ICC which, in spite of the provisions of the Rome Statute, remained somewhat nebulous and were wrongly perceived as being politicized by some participants and lecturers in international law.
The participating lecturers represented the Law faculties of the following universities in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Université de Bangui, École Nationale d’administration et de la magistrature in Bangui, Université de Kinshasa, Université de Kisangani, Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs in Goma, Université Catholique of Bukavu, Université de Lubumbashi, Université William Booth in Kinshasa, Université Libre de Kinshasa, Université Technologique Bel, Kinshasa Campus, and Université Protestante au Congo in Kinshasa. The seminar’s sessions and roundtable discussions were facilitated by Professor Xavier Philippe, professor of international criminal law at Université Paul-Cézanne. “I was particularly impressed by the quality of the discussions that my colleagues and I had on international law and the International Criminal Court,” he said.
Cooperation between the ICC and the universities which sent representatives to the regional seminars will continue after the seminars. Another aspect of the ICC’s academic programme, which is aimed at capacity-building for the universities in terms of documentation, will consist in providing university libraries with books and manuals on international criminal law so that they can be made available to their students.
Still with a view to strengthening and maintaining a sustainable partnership between the ICC and academic circles in the countries where the ICC is active, a website devoted to the academic program will come into operation in late August 2011. Information on the ICC’s academic program and on the seminars will be available to the general public in French and English. The teaching materials and tools developed under the programme will also be uploaded and will be available to the participating lecturers. Finally, a discussion forum will be created for them on the website so that they can keep in touch, and exchange ideas on matters relating to international criminal justice and teaching in this discipline. Access to these forums for students of international criminal law in the participating universities will also be encouraged.
“The organisation of the seminar and subsequent activities confirm once again that universities, lecturers and students are the current and future partners of the ICC,” said Fabienne Chassagneux, the ICC’s Outreach Coordinator in the CAR, who facilitated one of the roundtable discussions during the seminar. She added that these partners will continue to play a primordial role in fostering the promotion of and respect for human rights, humanitarian law, and international criminal law. Thanks to current and future partners, a successful and sustainable development of the academic programme will enable the ICC to extend and optimise its involvement in academic circles. This objective is fully in line with the ICC’s public information strategy for 2011-2013.”
II. CASES UPDATES
Note: The ICC is observing a summer recess from Friday 15 July 2011 (17:30) until Monday 8 August 2011 (09:00)
A. LUBANGA TRIAL
1. “ICC Victims’ Rights Legal Update,” VRWG, 31st May – 4 July 2011, http://www.vrwg.org/Legal_Update/legal update_June2011.pdf
“Developments in the Lubanga case:
i. OPCV submits closing submissions
… On 12 April 2011, Trial Chamber I (TC I) set out a timetable for closing submissions and held that Legal Representatives of Victims were to file their submissions no later than 1 June 2011.
On 31 May 2011, the Office of the Public Counsel for Victims (OPCV), submitted its closing submission. OPCV argued, inter alia, that the notion of “active participation of children under the age of 15 in hostilities” not only covers direct participation in the hostilities, but also in activities relating to the fighting (e.g.: espionage, sabotage, using children as messengers). OPCV also submitted that it should be sufficient to prove that girls under the age of 15 were recruited, in order to establish that they actively participated in the hostilities, given that the primary objective of their enrolment was to use them for sexual purposes.
ii. Identities of four victims disclosed to the parties
… On 6 April 2011, the Registry indicated that it had been unable to contact four individuals whose views were being sought regarding lifting their anonymity towards the parties in the case. On 6 June 2011, TC I ordered the immediate disclosure of the identities of victims a/0236/06, a/0221/06, a/0230/06 and a/0224/06 to the parties.
The Chamber held that whilst the Registry had not been able to contact the relevant victims to obtain their views, disclosure remained necessary for the preparation of the Defence. In order to safeguard the security of the four individuals concerned, it ordered the parties not to disclose their names to anyone outside their teams without prior authorisation of the Chamber. …”
2. “DRC :: Request for observations on offences against the administration of justice in Lubanga case”, “Legal Eye on the ICC,” e-letter, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, July 2011, http://www.iccwomen.org/news/docs/LegalEye7-11/LegalEye7-11.html
“On 29 March 2011, in The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Trial Chamber I requested observations from the parties and participants on the procedure to be adopted for Article 70 of the Rome Statute. Article 70 concerns offences against the administration of justice; in particular subsection (1)(c) covers 'corruptly influencing a witness, obstructing or interfering with the attendance or testimony of a witness, retaliating against a witness for giving testimony or destroying, tampering with or interfering with the collection of evidence'. The request came after an inquiry by the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) raised the issue of direct and indirect threats administered by victims against defence witnesses in the proceedings. Details of the VWU inquiry have not been made public. The Chamber ordered the parties and participants to submit observations on the appropriate organ of the Court, or external body, to conduct an Article 70 investigation. The Prosecution, Defence and the Legal Representatives of Victims provided their observations on 1 April 2011. This is the first time Article 70 has been engaged in a proceeding at the ICC.
The Legal Representatives of Victims (LRV) were the first to respond with comprehensive observations outlining the various options available to the Chamber. In regards to the Court's own jurisdiction on the matter, they noted that the Chamber may exercise jurisdiction over the matter or refer it to an appropriate State Party, taking into consideration its competence and experience in breaches of this kind. Should the Court decide to delegate its authority over the matter to a State Party, the filing suggested that the Court carefully consider the factors contained in Rule 162(2) as well as the potential impact of such delegation on victims and witnesses. The LRV submission also suggested following a procedure similar to that of the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR) to address investigations into this kind of breach, which in contrast to the statutory framework of the ICC, provide that the Chamber may ask the Registrar to seek an amicus curiae from an independent party or body. This option would preclude any potential conflict of interest within the Office of the Prosecutor.
In its observations, the Prosecution asserted that it was the only organ of the Court authorised by the Statute to conduct investigations, including for an Article 70 breach as explicitly foreseen in Rule 165 of the Rules and Regulations of the Court. Regarding any role to be played by the Registry, the Prosecution emphasised that its only responsibilities are over 'non-judicial aspects of the administration and servicing of the court'. It also asserted that in the event a conflict of interest is found, it could create internal divisions within the Office for the purpose of the Article 70 investigation.
The Defence recognised that conducting investigations, including into offences to the administration of justice, falls within the competence of the Office of the Prosecutor, as stated in Rules 163 and 165. However, it stressed the potential conflict of interest and the need for an independent body to conduct an Article 70 investigation given that the investigation requires that Defence witnesses be interviewed by the Prosecution, an organ adversarial to the position of the Defence. The Defence maintained that such an investigation could impact the impartiality and fairness of the proceedings. Therefore, it reiterated the suggestion that an independent body should investigate any potential offence, analogous to the procedures contemplated by the ad hoc tribunals.
At the time of writing, the issue is awaiting a decision by the Trial Chamber.
Read the observations by the Legal Representatives of Victims [http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1050166.pdf ], the Prosecution [http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1050370.pdf ], and the Defence [http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1050305.pdf ].
B. KATANGA/NGUDOLO TRIAL
1. “DRC :: Detained defence witnesses in Katanga/Ngudjolo case seek asylum,” “Legal Eye on the ICC,” e-letter, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice, July 2011, http://www.iccwomen.org/news/docs/LegalEye7-11/LegalEye7-11.html
“On 9 June 2011, Trial Chamber II issued a decision suspending the immediate return of three detained witnesses in the Katanga/Ngudjolo case to the DRC, pending their political asylum applications in The Netherlands. All three, military colleagues of the accused, were detained in the Makala prison in Kinshasa and were transferred to The Hague to testify pursuant to Article 93 of the Rome Statute and Rule 192 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. These regulations create a procedural framework that directs the Registrar to manage the transfer and custody of detained witnesses and return them following their testimony. This is the first time a witness before the ICC has applied for asylum.
In the decision, the Chamber analysed the precise scope of its duty to protect witnesses under Article 68 of the Rome Statute, drawing distinctions between that responsibility and the Court's duty to protect them against human rights violations in general. It determined that Article 68 grants only a narrow mandate to 'prevent the risk witnesses incur on account of their cooperation with the Court'. However, the Chamber acknowledged its obligation under internationally recognised human rights laws to honour the detained witnesses' right to seek and be granted asylum, and concluded that it could not interfere with that right. Specifically, it recognised the principle of non-refoulement, the protection of refugees from being returned to a place in which their lives or freedoms could be threatened. The Court further found that it was not under any obligation to assess the risks of persecution faced by witnesses seeking asylum, nor was non-refoulement strictly applicable as the Court has no territory in which to maintain jurisdiction over witnesses. Nevertheless, it held that it could not disregard human rights law that provides for open recourse to asylum proceedings.
The Chamber also ordered the Registry to authorise contact between the detained witnesses and their Dutch asylum counsel, which had been previously forbidden by the Registry pursuant to a pre-existing agreement with Congolese authorities, from whom prior authorisation was needed for all contact with individuals outside the detention centre. In light of the asylum applications, however, the Chamber found that 'this situation cannot continue' and ordered that Dutch counsel have access to the witnesses as soon as possible. The decision also rejected the application of the witnesses' Dutch attorneys to file an amicus curiae brief. Because the application for asylum was already before the Dutch authorities, the Chamber did not find that an amicus brief would be 'useful' in its determination of any facts.
In the 9 June decision, the Chamber refrained from ruling on whether proper protective measures can be implemented prior to the return of the witnesses, noting that if it were satisfied with protective measures in place in the DRC, 'there would in principle be no reason for the Court to delay the witnesses' return to the DRC any further'. The Office of the Prosecutor, the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the DRC Government have all filed applications for leave to appeal the decision.
In a subsequent decision issued on 22 June, however, the Chamber appeared to have reversed its prior findings, holding that:
in principle, therefore, the detained witnesses can be returned as soon as the [Victims and Witnesses Unit] confirms that the DRC has accepted to cooperate with the Court in this matter and all necessary preparation has been accomplished. However, the Chamber reminds the DRC that even if the above measures are in place, the Court will only be able to return the detained witnesses if their request for asylum has been rejected by the Dutch authorities.
The 22 June decision was issued after the Registry had filed observations regarding the efficacy of proposed protective measures on 7 June, a report disputed by counsel for the witnesses. In its earlier risk assessment, the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) had determined that as a consequence of their status as witnesses before the ICC, there appeared to be no increased risk of harm. The VWU did note, however, that it would be difficult to implement appropriate protective measures for detained witnesses within a prison system. In its 22 June decision, the Chamber determined that the implementation of several protective measures would meet the necessary requirements and allow the return of the detained witnesses as described above. The measures to be implemented by the DRC authorities include: their placement in a maximum protection facility, with specially-trained guards and security from co-detainees, and bi-weekly visits from members of the VWU as well as during any proceedings against them.
The three witnesses claim that if they are returned to the DRC, their lives and those of their families will be in danger as a result of their knowledge of the Government's role, specifically that of President Kabila, in the attack on Bogoro. In support of this allegation, Dutch counsel for the three witnesses sent an urgent communication to the Trial Chamber regarding the status of Colonel Richard Beiza Bamuhiga (Congolese), who was brutally assaulted by Ugandan security forces following the revocation of his refugee status based on an agreement between Congolese and Ugandan authorities, and remains in critical condition. The Ngudjolo Defence also filed observations supporting the witnesses' request that the ICC not return them to the DRC.
The Katanga Defence had sought to meet with the witnesses at the ICC penitentiary facility prior to their testimony. This request was rejected by the Trial Chamber, which held that the Protocol on Witness Familiarisation prohibits such contact. The Chamber authorised counsel for Katanga to hold urgent meetings with witnesses in an administrative area of the penitentiary facility in the DRC. Defence counsel then requested that the witnesses visit the accused in prison following their testimony at the ICC. At the time of writing, the Trial Chamber has not yet decided upon this request.
Read the Trial Chamber's decision suspending the immediate return of the witnesses. [http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1093334.pdf ] Read the Trial Chamber's decision on the security situation of the three witnesses. [http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1095863.pdf ...”
2. “ICC Victims’ Rights Legal Update,” VRWG, 31st May – 4 July 2011, http://www.vrwg.org/Legal_Update/legal update_June2011.pdf
“Developments in the Katanga and Ngudjolo case
i. TC II allows relatives to continue the action of deceased victims
… On 15 February 2011, Maitre Nsita informed Trial Chamber II (TC II) that the families of
4 deceased victims had each appointed a relative to act on behalf of the deceased victims.
On 14 June 2011, TC II authorized the persons appointed by the families of deceased victims
a/0051/08 and a/0197/08 to represent their interests in the proceedings.
It ordered the registry to disclose their identities, as well as the victims’ identities to the parties only.
The Chamber however held that it had not received the death certificate of victim a/0311/09 and that the person appointed by the family of victim a/0025/08 had not received a clear mandate to continue the action.
ii. TC II suspends the return of 3 detained witnesses pending a decision on their request for asylum
On 12 May 2011, three Defence witnesses who had been detained in DRC ahead of their testimony at the Court filed a request for asylum in The Netherlands, arguing that they risked being persecuted because of their testimony if returned to DRC.
On 9 June 2011, TC II suspended the witnesses’ immediate return to DRC, awaiting the decision of the Dutch authorities on the request for asylum.
The Chamber argued that, although its obligations to protect witnesses do not extend to the risks arising from the alleged lack of human rights in the DRC, it could not interpret article 93(7) of the Statute in a manner that would be inconsistent with the right to claim asylum. On 15 June 2011, the Prosecutor, the Government of the Netherlands and the Government of the DRC requested leave to appeal the decision….”
3“Witness: There was only One “Real” Child Soldier in Aveba” by Jennifer Easterday for Katanga Trial Blog, 20 July 2011 http://www.katangatrial.org/2011/07/witness-there-was-only-one-ârealâ-child-soldier-in-aveba/
4. “Witness 148 Denies his Testimony was Influenced” by Jennifer Easterday, Katanga Trial Blog, 27 June 2011 http://www.katangatrial.org/2011/06/witness-148-denies-his-testimony-was-influenced/
5. “Trial Chamber Orders Protective Measures, says Witnesses could be Returned to the DRC if Asylum Claim Rejected” by Jennifer Easterday, Katanga Trial Blog, 23 June 2011 http://www.katangatrial.org/2011/06/trial-chamber-orders-protective-measures-says-witnesses-could-be-returned-to-the-drc-if-asylum-claim-rejected/
C. MBARUSHIMANA CASE
1. “Mbarushimana case: Hearing on the confirmation of charges now scheduled to commence on 17 August 2011,” ICC Press Release, ICC-CPI-20110531-PR680, 31 May 2011, http://www.icc-cpi.int/menus/icc/press and media/press releases/pr680
“Today, 31 May 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided, at the request of the Prosecution, to postpone the commencement of the confirmation of charges hearing in the case The Prosecutor v. Callixte Mbarushimana, to 17 August 2011. The hearing was initially scheduled for 4 July 2011.
The Chamber took this decision in view of the delays caused by technical difficulties encountered in the process of reviewing electronic devices (hard drives, CDs, etc.) seized at the premises of the suspect at the time of his arrest. These devices might contain potentially exculpatory information, useful material to the preparation of the Defence or other elements that might be relevant for the Prosecution’s case.
Mr Mbarushimana, a 47 year old alleged national of Rwanda, was surrendered and transferred to the ICC on 25 January 2011 by the French authorities, following a warrant of arrest issued by Pre-Trial Chamber I on 28 September 2010 and his arrest on 11 October 2010. He is alleged to have been, since July 2007, the Executive Secretary of the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda - Forces Combattantes Abacunguzi.
According to the warrant of arrest, Mr Mbarushimana is allegedly criminally responsible, under article 25(3)(d) of the Rome Statute of the ICC, for five counts of crimes against humanity (murder, torture, rape, inhumane acts and persecution) and six counts of war crimes (attacks against the civilian population, destruction of property, murder, torture, rape and inhuman treatment) allegedly committed in the context of an armed conflict which waged in the Kivu Provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2009....”
2. “Mbarushimana Confirmation Hearing Postponed; Interim Release Request Refused,” Bulletin #23, Coalition for the International Criminal Court, May-June 2011, http://www.iccnow.org/documents/Bulletin_no23.pdf
“On 31 May 2011, ICC Pre-Trial Chamber (PTC) I postponed the commencement of the confirmation of charges hearing in the Callixte Mbarushimana case to 17 August 2011.
On 19 May 2011, PTC I refused to grant Mbarushimana interim release. [See: http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/doc/doc1079598.pdf ].”
3. “ICC Victims’ Rights Legal Update,” VRWG, 31st May – 4 July 2011, http://www.vrwg.org/Legal_Update/legal update_June2011.pdf
“Developments in the Mbarushimana case
i. Parties submit observations on 14 applications for participation
On 24 May 2011, Pre-Trial Chamber I (PTC I) invited the parties to present their observations on 14 applications for participation.
On 6 June 2011, the Defence opposed the applications arguing that they contained too many redactions and were too vague.
It also held that some applicants referred to facts which were not included in the arrest warrant. The Prosecutor, who had received unredacted copies of the applications, supported 13 of them but found that applicant a/2026/11 ought to provide further details.
ii. PTC I rejects Defence’s request for a permanent stay of proceedings On 24 May 2011, the Defence requested PTC I to permanently stay the proceedings on the ground of abuse of process.
The Defence argued that the Prosecution had deliberately or with gross negligence supplied misleading information regarding a German investigation against the suspect.
On 1 July 2011, PTC I rejected the Defence’s request, arguing that the Defence’s allegations were of a speculative nature.
The Chamber also held that the behaviour complained about fails to reach the threshold of gravity to warrant a stay of the proceedings.
iii. PTC I dismisses proposal with regards to victim participation in the confirmation of charges hearing
On 6 June 2011, the Victims Participation and Reparation Section (VPRS) informed PTC I that it would not be in a position to transmit all complete victims’ applications for participation by the revised deadline set by the Chamber (30 June 2011).
It suggested that the Chamber “seek the views” of the applicants as “other victims” under rule 93 of the Rules, rather than limiting participation in the confirmation of charges hearing only to those victims granted status in the case.
On 10 June 2011, the Single Judge dismissed the proposal and ordered VPRS to transmit all complete applications for participations by the revised deadline. …”
III. RELATED NEWS AND OPINIONS
A. COALITION MEMBERS’ UPDATES AND QUOTES
1. “DRC :: Update on the special mobile gender courts,” “Women's Voices,” e-letter, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice,” July 2011, http://www.iccwomen.org/news/docs/WI-WomVoices7-11/WomVoices7-11.html
“From 13 April to early May 2011, a special mobile gender court held a series of trials in the village of Kamituga, Mwenga territory, in the South Kivu province of eastern Congo. These trials followed one held in the town of Baraka in February 2011 during which 10 soldiers of the regular Congolese Army (FARDC) were condemned for crimes against humanity involving the rape of more than 60 women on New Year's Day in Fizi, South Kivu.
During the trials in Kamituga, involving soldiers and policemen implicated in ten different rape cases, 16 victims/survivors came forward to testify before five judges about rapes and sexual violence committed against them. The cases in question all involved incidents of sexual violence that occurred in villages and towns along National Road 2, which, for more than two decades, has been considered a notorious scene of conflict and violence, including gang rapes, sexual violence and killings of women. Based on the information available on the Open Society Foundations website, most of the rape cases involved sexual violence perpetrated against minors, the youngest victim being 8 years old. The majority of cases resulted in prison sentences ranging from three (for one case involving sex with consent) to 20 years.
Victims/survivors of these cases were granted between 3,000 and 10,000USD as civil damages. Similarly, victims/survivors of the Fizi mass rape were also granted 10,000USD each as compensation by the Congolese government. According to one of Women's Initiatives' South Kivu partners, Action des femmes pour le development (AFD), none of the victims/survivors have so far received the award of compensation. AFD is currently advocating with the relevant authorities for a follow-up on this issue.
The special mobile gender courts are an important step forward in domestic accountability for gender-based crimes. The number of victims/survivors testifying before these courts indicates that women and girls are willing to testify when they are given the opportunity to do so. Currently the special mobile gender courts are only operating in the South Kivu province.”
2. Update on latest UN Secretary General Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict statement, “Women's Voices,” e-letter, Women's Initiatives for Gender Justice,” July 2011, http://www.iccwomen.org/news/docs/WI-WomVoices7-11/WomVoices7-11.html
“The UN Secretary General Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ms Margot Wallström, has issued a statement on 23 June condemning the recent mass rape which took place in the Fizi territory, South Kivu. Reports indicate that more than 150 women were raped on 10-11 June in the area of Minembwe by Colonel Kifaru's troops. Kifaru is an ex-PARECO Hutu commander, who recently deserted the Congolese army with around 150 soldiers.
Although he was absent when the New Year's Fizi mass rape took place, Colonel Kifaru was the military sector commander of the regular army battalion responsible of this attack. In her statement, Ms Wallström declared that the June incident is a further sign of ‘a continuing pattern of ill-discipline on the part of those who bear arms, manifest in acts of pillage committed in conjunction with rape and other human rights abuses. Fuelling this pattern is the rapid integration of former rebel fighters into the national armed forces without vetting or systematic training.'
This is an issue the Women's Initiatives has raised since June 2009 regarding the lack of a distinct vetting mechanism and retraining for combatants prior to integration in the Congolese Army. This is one of the flaws of the Goma peace agreements signed between the Congolese Government and a number of militia groups including the Congres national pour la défense du people (CNDP) and PARECO in March 2009. The Women's Initiatives and partners have been critical of these aspects of the agreements, as well as the possible exercise of the amnesty provision for gender-based crimes.
These concerns were conveyed to the UN Secretary-General in June 2009 in an Open Letter [http://www.iccwomen.org/documents/OpenLetter-SG-UN---Edited.pdf] from the Women's Initiatives and partners in Eastern DRC, representing over 180 local women's and human rights organisations.
Read more in the April 2011 issue of Women's Voices at: http://www.iccwomen.org/WI-WomVoices0411/WomVoices0411.html
3. “Democratic Republic of Congo; DRC Women Wary of Pursuing Abuse Cases Fear of retribution and social disgrace discourages female workers reporting sexual harassment.” by Rehema Kabuo for IWPR, 19 July 2011 http://iwpr.net/report-news/drc-women-wary-pursuing-abuse-cases
“Concerns have been raised over the reluctance of women in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo to pursue sexual harassment cases against men who abuse them in the workplace.
Experts say the problem stems from both women’s reluctance to speak out on the issue and the difficulties in proving cases. And with perpetrators not being prosecuted, the number of offences is growing, they warn.
According to statistics from the Synergy of Women for Sexual Violence Victims, a local advocacy group, at least 80 per cent of women in the region’s workforce have experienced some form of sexual harassment. The problem affects both the private and public sector, the group says.
“Sexual harassment is a common problem. But if women keep silent about it, it will never decrease,” said Major Bodeli Dombi, the deputy commander of the special police unit for the protection of women and children, PSPE, in the town of Goma in eastern DRC.
... “Women who are victims of sexual harassment at work do not report it [as they] fear they won’t be taken seriously. They could then be subjected to provocations and wouldn’t know whom to turn to. This creates psychological problems including fear, anxiety and anger,” Gérôme Mukasa, a psychotherapist in Goma, said.
Mireille Ntambuka of the women’s legal group Dynamique Femmes Juristes, DFJ, also noted the lack of reported cases.
... “Gender-based crimes are often committed in the absence of a witness,” explained Eugène Buzaka, a lawyer working with victims of gender crimes in Goma.
The fact that the few women prepared to file a complaint often end up disappointed has further discouraged women from reporting cases.
“Because it is so difficult to gather evidence, many women who’ve looked to the courts don’t get justice. This deters other harassed women from proceeding with cases. They prefer to keep [their suffering] to themselves,” Justine Masika, a women’s rights activist in Goma, said.
Women’s failure to report cases has led to fears that the scourge of sexual harassment in Goma and other parts of eastern DRC will only get worse.
“If perpetrators are not punished then this sort of behaviour won’t stop,” Bodeli Dombi, of PSPE, said.
Ntambuka urges women to speak out and collect evidence to prevent further sexual harassment.
“As early as the first signs of sexual harassment appear, victims should have the courage to talk to someone, be it a friend or an association …I advise women not to withdraw into themselves,” Ntambuka said.
But it is not just women’s reluctance to speak out that prevents justice being done. Lawyers have raised concerns about inadequacies in investigative procedures.
“Other factors can result in lack of confidence in the administration of justice itself,” Buzake said. “There is no infrastructure that can facilitate cases being processed with the necessary protection of the victim and levels of confidentiality.”
In towns such as Goma, there is “no proper equipment, no formal training, [and] few female police officers or magistrates”...”
B. OTHER NEWS AND OPINIONS
1. “Final report on the fact-finding missions of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office into the mass rapes and other human rights violations committed by a coalition of armed groups along the Kibua-Mpofi axis in Walikale territory, North Kivu, from 30 July to 2 august 2010,” UNCHR, July 2011, http://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_1615.pdf
2. ‘UN envoys voice outrage after mass rape in eastern DR Congo', UN News Centre, 24 June 2011, at http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38843&Cr=sexual+violence&Cr1
3. “UN report calls for prosecution of perpetrators of mass rape in DR Congo” UN News Center, 22 July 2011, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=39120&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo
4. “Reports of Mass Rapes in Democratic Republic of the Congo” by Victoria Nuland Department of State of the USA, APO, http://appablog.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/reports-of-mass-rapes-in-democratic-republic-of-the-congo/
5. “DRC: Investigation into mass rapes and other human rights violations in Walikale reveals prevailing lack of accountability” APO, 6 July 2011 http://appablog.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/drc-investigation-into-mass-rapes-and-other-human-rights-violations-in-walikale-reveals-prevailing-lack-of-accountability/
6. “Rapes in Eastern DRC: the UN asks for the reinforcement judicial system in DRC” Le Potentiel, 23 July 2011, http://www.congoforum.be/fr/nieuwsdetail.asp?subitem=1&newsid=179028&Actualiteit=selected [in French]
7. “Activists march from Paris to Brussels to highlight mass rape in DR Congo” France 24, 14 July 2011 http://observers.france24.com/content/20110714-congolese-activists-march-paris-brussels-fight-mass-rape-dr-congo-women-feminicide
8. “Democratic Republic of Congo – Sexual violence and situation in eastern DRC” APO, 8 July 2011
9. “Court Must Speed Up Investigations into Sex Crimes in DRC” Scoop, 8 July 2011 http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO1107/S00162/court-must-speed-up-investigations-into-sex-crimes-in-drc.htm
10. “Rapes in DRC: Euro-deputies call Kabila to end impunity“ by Ursula Soares, RFI, 7 July 2011 http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20110707-viols-rdc-eurodeputes-appellent-kabila-mettre-fin-impunite [In French]
11. “Congo-Kinshasa: Mass Rapes Could Be Crimes Against Humanity - UN Report” UN News Service, 6 July 2011, http://allafrica.com/stories/201107061577.html
12 “DRC: rebels could have committed crimes against humanity" RIAN, 6 July 2011 http://fr.rian.ru/world/20110706/190068705.html [In French]
13. "South-Kivu: 248 women raped by soldiers within three days" RNW, 5 July 2011 http://www.rnw.nl/afrique/article/sud-kivu-248-viols-commis-en-3-jours-par-des-soldats [In French]
14. “War crimes accused declares DR Congo poll candidacy” AFP, 22 July 2011
15. “Analysis: Fragile peace holding in Ituri” by IRIN, 6 July 2011, http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=93155
16. “UN extends 19,000-strong Congo force, says any reduction should depend on ending violence” by Edith M. Lederer, Winnipeg Press, 29 June 2011 http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/world/breakingnews/un-extends-19000-strong-congo-force-says-any-reduction-should-depend-on-ending-violence.html
CICC's policy on the referral and prosecution of situations before the ICC:
The Coalition for the ICC is not an organ of the court. The CICC is an independent NGO movement dedicated to the establishment of the International Criminal Court as a fair, effective, and independent international organization. The Coalition will continue to provide the most up-to-date information about the ICC and to help coordinate global action to effectively implement the Rome Statute of the ICC. The Coalition will also endeavor to respond to basic queries and to raise awareness about the ICC's trigger mechanisms and procedures, as they develop. The Coalition as a whole, and its secretariat, do not endorse or promote specific investigations or prosecutions or take a position on situations before the ICC. However, individual CICC members may endorse referrals, provide legal and other support on investigations, or develop partnerships with local and other organizations in the course of their efforts. Communications to the ICC can be sent to: ICC P.O. box 19519 2500 CM the Hague The Netherlands