The UN Mapping Report on human rights abuses in the DRC between 1993 and 2003, produced in October 2010, had the positive effect of encouraging the Congolese state to establish a new, mixed court to deal with those accused of the most serious violations of human rights. As part of an attempt to bolster the national justice system, the court will employ international as well as Congolese staff. According to Georges Kapiamba, the vice-president of the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADHO), “Lawmakers have the opportunity to show that they too want a completely credible court by supporting an amendment to ensure a robust, international presence”.
This week, the draft legislation on the new, mixed court was reviewed by numerous Congolese and international human rights bodies. They warned that to maximise the integrity of the new body, it is crucial that the law is changed so that the death sentence is not the only penalty proposed for use against the prosecuted. As argued by Geraldine Mattioli-Zeltner, the international justice advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, if this does not occur, the court “risks becoming an instrument of execution”.
Even with this progress, the last week has demonstrated the ongoing difficulties in the fight against the perpetrators of some of the most serious human rights violations in the DRC, the Lord’s Resistance Army. After the news that America would support the anti-LRA military effort, the Ugandan government reduced the funding for its own operations and brought back 700 soldiers that had been hunting the group. Although the Director General of African Affairs at the German Foreign Office, Walter Lindner, has praised Uganda for its achievements in contributing to peace in South Sudan, the DRC and Somalia in the longer term, US strategy argues that decreased Ugandan support represents a “major setback” in the anti-LRA challenge.
In general, there has been frustration at the slowness of international efforts to crush the rebel faction. Paul Ronan, co-founder of Resolve, a lobbying body that fights against LRA violence, said to the Institute of War and Peace Reporting that “the problem is that [the UN, US and African Union] are not yet committing to dedicating the resources to actually put their [anti-LRA] plans to action”. Others believe that the international presence already in place to challenge the armed group is not operating as efficiently as it might. Anneke van Woudenberg of Human Rights Watch has said that less than one thousand of MONUSCO’s 19,000 peacekeeping soldiers are acting in LRA-affected areas.
The importance of effective collaboration was underlined in the UN Security Council’s calls this week for the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) to work with other bodies to tackle peace and security issues in the relevant countries. The Council encouraged both the UNOCA and the UN Office to the Africa Union (UNOAU) to work closely with the African Union against the LRA.
Meanwhile, this week’s news that the International Criminal Court has postponed the hearing for Callixte Mbarushimana due to ‘disclosure-related issues’ may exacerbate the bitterness over delays in international action. Mbarushimana stands accused of acting as the executive secretary for the FDLR from July 2007 and of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in the DRC in 2009. The ICC chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has in the past called him “the last incarnation of the group of persons who committed the 1994 genocide in Rwanda”.