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Ref.MJC/article003/04 15th April 2004

The Forgotten crimes: Possible ways to put an end to the culture of impunity in Congo-Kinshasa

Since August 1998, the democratic republic of Congo, formerly Zaire has been enmeshed in one of africa's most internationalised wars, directely involving six others countries. The armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi invaded the country, together with congolese rebel groups to overthrow the governmenet of the DR-Congo supported by Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia.

Those armed groups have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and other violations of international humanitarian and human rights law on the massive scale in the DRC. Assaillants have massacred unarmed civilians, sometimes solenly on the basis of their ethnicity, opinions, sex..., committed summary executions, forcibly abducted persons whose whereabouts remain unknown, and arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained others, some of whom they subjected to systematic torture, sexual violence of women and girls has been a particularly devastating feature and has been used as a weapon of war by most of the armed forces. All groups have recruited children, some as young as seven years old, for military service, subjecting the children to the risks and the trauma of military operations.

In june 2003, a so-called government of National unity was installed in the democratic republic of Congo, purportedly ending what has been one of the most deadly war in the world, as reported by the international rescue committee that 3.3 millions people had died in the DRC since 1998 from direct and indirect violence, making this, the most deadly war in the world in terms of a civilian death toll since world war two.

On paper like it has been said by human rights watch, the country is on the road to peace, but in practice it is far from peaceful. In many parts of the eastern of Congo, such as Ituri, south kivu, north kivu and katanga, the fighting between armed groups continues with widespread human rights crimes, including ethnic massacres, sexual violence, and recruitment of child soldiers. Systematic human rights offenses against civilians have been rampant throughout the duration of this five year war and continue with almost total impunity!

It is a shame to see people still live in the fear of death while the members of the congolese government are enjoying the power and privileges. The Kinshasa government has shown his incapability to control (rule) the whole country, especially the eastern party which seems to have another administration! It seems like the transition exists only in Kinshasa! The former rebel groups appear to have monopoly to their former territory, to be preserving their military options should the transition process fail. Some leaders are weak, without political willing and encouraging culture of impunity. We are observing abuse of power and no one is puting the law in practice. They are ruling the country as they sees fit! There is no cohesion and confidence among leaders. Misunderstanding, distrust and confusion are prevailing among them. Everyone is pretending to be president of the state. It looks as if Congo is becomed a kingdom of wren!

Il ya manque de l'autorité de l'Etat, a lack of leadership where nobody is coordinating the government actions.

The violence/insecurity is increasing throughout the country because of lack of law enforcement. The culture of impunity in place in Congo is encouraging everyone to do whatever like a competition to seize power or retaliate... that's why it might be infernal cycle of violence in DRC.

In this incertain environment, questions of justice are critical! A number of those appointed to government positions have been also accused of involvement in serious human rights abuses!

Addressing Impunity for horrific crimes that have been committed in DR-Congo should be the priority of this transitional government. We strongly believe like HRW that accountability for serious past crimes is the foundation for post conflict reconstruction based on the rule of law and respect for human rights.

The DRC's national justice system is in state of disarray. Its judicial system has had little investment over the past decade. Most of the courts do not function. its personal have not been for years and magistrates are badly trained and unsupported. Mismanagement or corruption often characterizes cases that are heard, sometimes fueling community grievances and furthering conflict. The national justice system need to be rebuild in long term, to give it the capacity to establish a functioning, independent, impartial, and fair judiciary.

While in short term, quick and innovative solutions need to be found to hold to the account those responsibles for grave human rights crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide...

We do believe at that level, the international tribunal court for DRC still needed as it has been several times expressed by the congolese president to U.N. There is a need to set up that international tribunal court because under the current penal code in DRC, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide are not punishable offenses.

These crimes will not stop as long as those who committed them are not held responsible for their acts! Accountability for those responsible for serious crimes is essential if the DRC and the great lacs region are to make a transition to a durable peace.

If there is no Justice, local populations may cause further violence by taking matters into their own hands. This has already been witnessed in Ituri, north eastern of Congo where the culture of impunity has further fuelled the cycle of ethnic violence, allowing opposing groups to believe they are justified in carrying out revenge killings for crimes committed against them. Questions of justice ought to be treated delicately in such a fragile environment!

Without Justice in Congo peace will remain fragile, and transition may fail as the commission of illegally gotten wealth and the commission of murders (in french means: commission de biens mal acquis et assassinats) failed while the Mobutu regime. Moreover, the truth and reconciliation commision may fail also since the integrity and suitability of some of its members are subject of critics claim for having been implicated in human rights abuses.

The Mouvement de la Jeunesse Congolaise (MJC-asbl) has learnt from a diplomatic mission that under the international community pressure, the government of Joseph Kabila is going to withdraw his prosecution lodged against Rwanda and Uganda from the international criminal court which has shown the willing to investigate that case.

The Rwanda and Uganda governments are alleged to have committed abomiable crimes under international law, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes while their four years war occupation in the eastern of the democratic republic of Congo.

We think that decision is a major setback for the fight against impunity and it will increase the infernal cycle of violence in the region.This step backward in the compaign for universal justice and the MJC-asbl totally disagrees with the states of rule of law and strong democracy like USA, UK... which are encouraging that such irresponsible decision in order to safeguard their personal interest.

This decision goes against a growing trend in international law and significant efforts by national jurisdictions to end impunity, including by not giving immunity from prosecution to people suspected of crimes under international law.

A person's official capacity is not a bar to prosecution for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes as expressed in the international treaties including the geneva convention, and convention against torture, statutes of international tribunal court for Yougoslavia, international tribunal court for Rwanda and the Rome statute of the international criminal court, and the DR-Congo has signed some of these treaties.

As the desire to control and to exploit the natural resources of the DR-Congo has been a major driving force behind massive human rights abuses, the UN security council must assume its responsabilities, to put into practice the recommendations of the UN panel concerning the report of the illegal exploitation of the natural resources of Congo-Kinshasa. The UN must set up an international tribunal court for DRC to investigate and to juge the responsibles of those crimes.

We think that the UN should create also a kind of Marshal plan for the post conflict reconstruction of the DRC and the countries which invaded Congo whose Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, the multi-nationales compagnies and the developped countries implicated in the illegal exploitation of Congo's resources must finance this plan.That is the only way Congo should forgive and build peace with those countries during the international conference for peace, security, democracy and development in the great lacs region which will held soon.

The MJC is urging the Congolese transitional government to address impunity, and the persons who are implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide... must be investigated regardless of the position or power they are enjoying, to end human rights abuses, to undertake fundamental reform of army, police and justice systems.

Justice must be served, and no one should enjoy immunity from crimes under international law, which are so serious that the international community has accepted that it is the responsability of all states to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The MJC-asbl states that there is no lasting peace in Congo without justice and reconciliation does not mean impunity.

Please use your influence to help make difference in the democratic republic of Congo and let us act together to ensure that nobody is immune for these abominable and imprescriptible crimes under international humanitarian law.

Nalenga Z. Georges
Mouvement de la Jeunesse Congolaise, MJC-asbl


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