ASF in the Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Location: 1 central office in Kinshasa, 2 branch offices in Bukavu and Bunia
  • Date of establishment: 2002
  • Team: 5 expatriates and 21 local collaborators

Background

In spite of elections in 2006 and 2011 that were considered democratic by the international community, the DRC is struggling to emerge from a cycle of conflict into a phase of real development led by good governance. The conflict in the eastern part of the country keeps stopping and starting, according to various peace accords, changes of alliances and demands by both Congolese and foreign armed groups – including M23 and Mai-Mai. These conflicts are leading to serious violations of human rights on a massive scale and resulting in the displacement of very large populations, serving only to increase the economic and political insecurity.

Drafting of various major legislation is still progressing, in areas such as the implementation of the Statute of Rome, the protection of human rights defenders, or the reform of the legal profession and legal aid.

Among the positive points are an improvement in the status of judges, the establishment of several local-level courts and the adoption of measures to combat sexual violence. However, the people are still finding it hard to access the justice system, let alone place their trust in it, because of the excessive cost – due partly to widespread corruption in the legal system, long, drawn-out proceedings and a low rate of enforcement of judgments of just 4 to 8%.

In 2012, two major programmes to reform the justice system were launched, funded by the European Union. ASF is responsible for implementing the Uhaki Safi project – “good justice” in Swahili – on behalf of the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with the NGO RCN Justice et démocratie and an independent management unit. Also known as PARJE (standing for Programme d’appui en renforcement de la justice à l’Est – Support programme promoting justice in the East), this project covers the provinces of North and South Kivu and Ituri.

ASF4

ASF’s projects in DR Congo

Access to justice

  • Objectives: To re-establish the link between the population and the justice system, in order to promote formal justice as a non-violent means of resolving conflict.
  • Activities (in the provinces of North and South Kivu and the Ituri district):
    – Legal aid clinics ;
    – Support for bar associations in Bukavu, Goma and Bunia ;
    – Legal assistance for persons in preventive detention and victims of gender-based violence;
    – Mobile court hearings ;
    – Advocacy and publication of research findings.
  • Budget: € 5.000.000
  • Funding: European Commission
  • Duration: 36 months (10/2012 > 10/2015)

Fight against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity

Since the war in 1996, DR Congo has experienced a series of conflicts that have killed more than 4 million people and caused the displacement of millions of them. Civilians are in the front line and are victims of abuse as well from international national armed groups, as from the Congolese army.

  • Objectives: Develop tools together with its local partners to fight against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to meet the need for justice.
  • Activities
    – Training of lawyers ;
    – Training and mentoring of NGOs that work with victims ;
    – Legal representation for victims in trials in the DRC ;
    – Legal representation for victims in cases before the International Criminal Court ;
    – Advocacy for the rights of victims.

These activities cover the entire country, especially the six provinces most affected by the war and ongoing violence: the two Kivus, Eastern Province, Equateur province, Katanga and Maniema.

Fight against irregular pre-trial detention on a massive scale

In DR Congo, the vast majority of people accused of crimes are put in pre-trial detention, without regular appearances before a judge or access to a lawyer. They are held in appalling conditions (severe overcrowding, lack of food and healthcare).

  • Objectives: To guarantee them access to justice and develop a national strategy.
  • Activities (in the provinces of Kinshasa, Equateur and Lower Congo)
    – Awareness-raising and information of detainees ;
    – Raising awareness among actors in the legal system (judges, lawyers, civil society, government ministries), the worlds of academia and development ;
    – Legal assistance for detainees, with priority for women and minors ;
    – Boosting the internal capacity of the Ordre National des Avocats (ONARDC) and the four bar associations involved (Kinshasa Gombe, Kinshasa Matete, Matadi and Mbandaka) to implement and manage a systematic, high-quality legal aid service for those in pre-trial detention ;
    – Developing the technical skills of lawyers to deal with legal assistance (training, coaching, production of manuals) ;
    – Strategic litigation.
  • Budget: € 1.084.282
  • Funding: Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation (DGD)
  • Duration: 24 months (01/05/2014 > 30/04/2016)

Fight against torture and inhuman or degrading treatment

This project is conducted by ASF in conjunction with the BCNUDH.

  • Activities:
    – Workshops to raise awareness of the new law penalising torture passed in 2011 ;
    – Legal assistance for victims of torture.

Protection of human rights defenders (HRDs)

This a multi-national programme rolled out in countries including DR Congo, Burundi and Uganda.

  • Activities:
    – Legal assistance for HRDs and their families (including representing the brothers and sisters of the Congolese activist Floribert Chebeya at the trial following his death) ;
    – Advocacy regarding the situation of HRDs ;
    – Protection of HRDs in danger ;
    – Training of lawyers in protecting and assisting HRDs.
Pictures © ASF/G.Van Moortel

ASF’s publications and the latest news from Democratic Republic of Congo. 

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