Congo Radio Show Launched


Congo Radio Show Launched


Friday, 27 November, 2009

IWPR Netherlands has launched a radio programme aimed at increasing public awareness in the Democratic Republic of Congo about war crimes trials taking place at the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague.

The fortnightly programme, Facing Justice, was broadcast for the first time
in October in Lingala, Swahili and French. IWPR’s partner is Search for Common
Ground, which will distribute the programme via a network of more than 90 partner
radio stations around the country.

Facing Justice will draw on contributions from IWPR-trained journalists in
DRC, staff at IWPR Netherlands, legal experts, civil society, political analysts,
human rights activists and government representatives.

“The aim of the programme is to help Congolese citizens understand and contextualise
the role of international justice in their country by providing them access
to a broad range of voices knowledgeable on questions of the ICC and the challenges
that the DRC justice system faces,” said Stephanie Wolters, producer of Facing

“The programmes will draw upon local and international experts, activists,
ICC personnel, ordinary Congolese citizens and Congolese government officials
in its efforts to provide a comprehensive and objective picture of the ICC’s
activities, and the many challenges that Congolese face accessing justice in
their own country.”

The show was conceived after the IWPR Netherlands project team met local journalists
and editors in the DRC last year. They confirmed that independent and balanced
reporting on sensitive issues such as war crimes is currently lacking and that
radio was an effective means of disseminating such reports.

Though the DRC has five nationals indicted before the ICC, recent surveys suggest
most Congolese know little about the court. The vast majority believe it is
important to hold those who committed war crimes accountable and that this will
be necessary to secure peace in the country. Congolese people including the
victims of war crimes would like to participate in ICC related activities but
few know how to access information on the court.

Lena Slachmuijlder, director of Search for Common Ground in DRC, explained
that Facing Justice is important because information on ICC proceedings is so
limited in the country.

“It is very important to give out correct information to establish the impartiality
of the ICC in the eyes of the Congolese, because it is not evident that it has
that credibility,” she said.

Slachmuijlder said that major delays in the ICC’s first ever case, against
DRC militia leader Thomas Lubanga, are hard for Congolese people to understand.
Many have interpreted this as a signal the court is a political body.

“The collaboration with IWPR will help us bring out credible voices from the
ICC to give information to the people in a regular way, so they can understand
what is happening with the trial, and what the constraints and opportunities
are with international justice,” she said.

“Through IWPR we have access to clear, insightful information, and more information
from the people who are actually running the ICC and who can help to explain

Background Information

The ICC has issued indictments against five Congolese – Thomas Lubanga, Germain
Katanga, Mathieu Ngudjolo, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Bosco Ntaganda.

Lubanga was due to go on trial in late June, accused of recruiting child soldiers
in the Ituri region, but the case was indefinitely postponed when judges said
prosecution errors meant he could not get a fair trial. Prosecutors have appealed.

Judges recently confirmed charges including, rape, murder and sexual slavery
against Katanga and Ngudjolo with their trial expected in 2009.

The charges against Bemba, Congo’s former vice-president, relate to crimes
of sexual violence allegedly committed by his troops in the Central African
Republic. His confirmation of charges hearing is scheduled for early November.

Ntaganda, accused of war crimes in Ituri, remains at large. He currently commands
the military wing of Laurent Nkunda’s rebel force in North Kivu province.

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