February 20, 2024

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

Congo (the Democratic Republic of the)Access to justice and developmentLocal justice

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.

The study is part of the National Justice Reform Policy (PNJR) 2017-2026 and the Support Programme for Justice Reform Phase II (PARJ II) managed by the consortium formed by Avocats Sans Frontières, RCN Justice & Démocratie and TRIAL.

The aim of this study is to shed light on the operation of community justice in Ituri and on the links between all actors and stakeholders involved in dispute resolution processes at both community and state level.

In the DRC, the population still relies heavily on community justice to resolve their conflicts despite its ambiguous legal status. This is particularly the case in Ituri, a region marked by lasting conflicts who have contributed to major issues affecting the proper functioning and the activity of the courts and the various state justice mechanisms.

A wide variety of both community and state actors are involved in dispute resolution in Ituri. Each of them has distinct mechanisms with their own procedures. The courts and tribunals as well as the forces of law and order will justify their action by invoking legal procedures and written law while the actors at community level (customary chiefs, religious actors and cultural associations) will resort to sources such as custom, Congolese law or religious values to deal with disputes.

Litigants cite many reasons to explain why they tend to favour community mechanisms rather than civil justice. First of all: proximity. In the Ituri province, and as is often the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the courts and tribunals are concentrated in the main cities. People from rural areas therefore often have to travel long distances to access them. This impediment to access to civil courts is all the more significant in Ituri as the persistence of armed conflict makes long journeys particularly dangerous.

Secondly, recourse to community mechanisms is most often free of charge for the population, unlike state justice which, as well as being slow, is often very expensive. Finally, community actors are familiar with local customs, are close to the people, speak their language and tend to find lasting solutions with an emphasis on restoring social peace.

Join us this Thursday 29 February to discuss further the issues raised by the coexistence of this multiplicity of actors active in the resolution of disputes in Ituri.


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