International Justice/ICC: July/Aug ‘09

Project team canvasses views of cross-section of DRC society on Lubanga trial and the ICC.

International Justice/ICC: July/Aug ‘09

Project team canvasses views of cross-section of DRC society on Lubanga trial and the ICC.

Friday, 9 October, 2009
IWPR Netherlands went on the road over the summer – to the city of Bukavu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu province.

The DRC project team met with lawyers, NGOs, journalists, students, religious leaders and local chiefs from July 26-August 3 to introduce them to our Thomas Lubanga trial reporting project and get their views on the trial and the International Criminal Court, ICC. The Lubanga project is a joint initiative of IWPR and the Open Society Justice Initiative, OSI. Among the activities is a website featuring daily reports from the courtroom as well comment and analysis on the case.

It was clear that people had little information on the Lubanga trial but were nonetheless extremely interested in the latest developments in The Hague.

They also had many questions for the project team.

Pascal Munoka of the NGO Action pour le Développement des Communautés Paysannes asked why the ICC has not prosecuted those responsible for mass killings in Makobola and Kasika in 1998. He also wondered why those who worked with Lubanga were not on trial.

We also met with various student organisations to explain the project and the website, They wondered why only Africans are in The Hague.

At Ligue Nationale de la Jeunesse, a youth organisation which operates across the country, they said the ICC is having little impact on the ground because of the slowness of its legal proceedings and its failure to communicate with local people about the trial or its investigations.

NGO worker Yvette Kabuo Tsongo from Réseau des Femmes Pour la Défense des Droits et la Paix told IWPR that Congolese are losing confidence in the ICC because of its poor visibility.

The meetings were followed by a day of exchange organised by IWPR that gave local groups a public forum to share their views on international justice and the Lubanga trial. Attended by more than 50 people, the discussion was a lively one. Participants said that before the Lubanga trial project they had little access to information about the ICC and the trial and they would use what they had learned in their professional activities.

One topic for discussion was the failure of the United States, Russia and China to ratify the Rome Statute, meaning its citizens are unlikely to stand trial there.

The participants had numerous questions for the project team and also urged IWPR to continue its radio programme on international justice, Facing Justice, and consider expanding it to television to increase its audience. Facing Justice, launched in October 2008, is broadcast around the Congo on more than 90 community stations.

Similar events are planned around the country in the coming months as it is clear that Congolese need more information about the ICC and should be given the opportunity to join in the ongoing debate about international justice.

The project team in late June hosted a similar exchange in the North Kivu provincial capital Goma where IWPR has recently opened its office. As in Bukavu, around 60 participants said they were interested in the ICC but had little information on the hearings in The Hague.
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