ASF in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Location: Kinshasa (Kinshasa) , Bunia (Ituri), Matadi (Kongo Central), Tshikapa (Kasaï) Date of establishment: 2002 Team: 23 collaborators Contact: jtroncoso@asf.be

General context

With a population of roughly 80,000,000, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second-biggest country in Africa. Despite elections in 2006 and 2011, which were considered democratic by the international community, DRC is struggling to end the cycle of conflict. Insecurity persists in the east, where it has been maintained for more than ten years by different armed groups, which have committed serious and massive human rights violations. Fuelled by extractive activities, the illegal trade in natural resources, and endemic corruption, these conflicts have left the population in a permanent climate of instability, which has led to a serious humanitarian crisis. The conflicts and violence have spread to other provinces in the country, including Kasai Province, which has seen large-scale violence since mid-2016.

Since the end of 2016, DRC has been undergoing a new political crisis due to President Kabila remaining as head of state despite his second and final term coming to an end. Peaceful demonstrations demanding democratic change have been frequently and violently repressed by the police, the army, and the intelligence services, who carried out many arrests and kidnappings in a severe restriction of the people’s democratic freedoms.

This tense climate is made worse by a very unstable economic and social situation. DRC has been hit hard by the impact of the international economic crisis on the prices of primary materials, including mining and logging resources, the country’s main sources of economic development.

The condition of justice

Despite many efforts to address the issue, people still face major obstacles in terms of access to justice. The national conference on justice held in 2015 highlighted the many challenges of an institutional and structural, material, financial, and even sociological nature, which the national policy for justice reform adopted in May 2017 is intended to address.

Nonetheless, the budget allocated to justice is currently still far too limited, which means that the provision of justice is weak and dysfunctional. Considering the country’s immense size, geographic coverage is a key issue. Access to a lawyer, moreover, is not guaranteed. In the absence of a functional and subsidised legal aid system, the cost of a lawyer’s services is still unaffordable for most people. Moreover, most lawyers are based in big urban areas, so the majority of Congolese people have no access to their services.

Finally, there is a lack of knowledge among the people about their rights and the means of exercising them, especially in rural areas. They also express a growing mistrust of judicial institutions, due to the latent corruption of the people who work in them, the low rate of implementation of decisions, and the high economic and social cost of legal procedures. As a result, most citizens continue to turn to traditional authorities to resolve their conflicts.

Projects

Support Programme for the Reform of the Justice System (phase 2)

Funding: European Union
Duration: 3 years (February 2022 > January 2025)

Promote the full and effective realisation of people's rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Funding: Belgian development cooperation
Duration: 5 years (January 2022 > December 2026)

Protect the rights and freedoms of spokespersons of the Congolese population

Funding: The embassy of the Netherlands
Duration: 3 years (July 2021 > July 2024)

Publications

December 6, 2023

Ezekere case - Military Court upholds convictions and grants full exemption from legal costs to victims, a first in Ituri

October 26, 2023

Access to Remedy for Human Rights Violations in East Africa: Lessons learned from the perspective of Civil Society Organizations during the East African Business & Human Rights Conference

October 5, 2023

Report Justice ExPEERience 2021-2023

October 5, 2023

(French) Report Justice ExPEERience 2021-2023

News

February 20, 2024

ExPEERience #13: Rendering justice without courts? Experiences of community justice in Ituri

At this ExPEErience Talk, Julien Moriceau and Janvier Digital Koko Kirusha from INANGA, and Johnny Lobho Lamula from ASF in the DRC, will present a study on community justice in Ituri, which will be published in the coming days.

January 24, 2024

Defending the defence: The lawyer faced with the peril of repression

Legal proceedings, harassment, intimidation, deprivation of liberty, and sometimes direct physical harm. Throughtout the world, lawyers working on behalf of human rights, civil society or vulnerable groups are threatened and attacked simply for doing their job. This is the reality that we and our partners have to face wherever we operate. Our teams report repeated and increasing attacks on lawyers, and more generally on human rights defenders, in a global context of erosion the rule of law, narrowing of civic space and hypertrophy of executive power to the detriment of the legislative and judicial systems.

October 16, 2023

Justice ExPEERience, the human rights network launched by ASF, celebrates its second anniversary

Two years ago, Avocats Sans Frontières launched Justice ExPEERience, a network for the promotion of human rights, as well as an online platform of the same name to support and energise this network. This anniversary is an opportunity for us to look back at the history and mandate of the Justice ExPEERience network and its platform. A report on its first two years of activity has just been published, covering developments since its creation, its key projects and also its development prospects.