13 March 2017
Kinshasa, 13 March 2017 – ASF has come a long way since it started up its activities in Congo 15 years ago. Its aim, from the very beginning, has been to ensure that people become more aware of their rights and can enforce them. We opened our first office in Kinshasa on 12 March 2002. Since then, we’ve developed a wide range of projects that we describe below. Our network has grown nationwide, thanks to all those we have met who supported us, offering their advice and expertise, working with us in circumstances that were not always easy.
On this anniversary, it’s our pleasure to thank everyone who has walked along this path with us. We would like to thank bar associations, lawyers, civil society organisations, and those who give us technical and financial support. And we could not have done it all without our dedicated, hard-working colleagues.
We did our best to help all of those who turned to us for support. That is what makes our work worthwhile.
We have certainly made progress, though we are in no doubt there will be challenges ahead. We are ready to contribute to resolving them to the best of our ability. The needs are certainly there.
Now is a good time to take stock of what we have done, and to pave the way for the future.
- ASF opens an office in Congo. Some 95 % of the population has no knowledge of the law nor of legal processes.
- Intensive training for magistrates is set up in different provinces. The transitional constitution is translated into four vernacular languages.
- Partnership launched with the library of the Faculty of Law, Kinshasa University.
- Opening of the first ‘legal clinic’ in Kinshasa’s Kasa Vubu district, in partnership with the Women Lawyers’ Association in Congo. The clinic sees about 250 people a month to provide clear, understandable legal advice. Launch of awareness-raising and information campaigns in markets, outside churches, etc.
- First mobile courts organised. Tribunals travel to remote locations.
- ASF runs a regional project covering Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, and campaigning against torture.
- Efforts are stepped up to break the cycle of impunity in international crimes. ASF offers legal assistance to both victims and defendants in trials conducted within Congo, as well as to victims appearing at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
- ASF campaigns against impunity in sex crimes, rampant throughout the country. Projects are launched to bring perpetrators to justice. These include support for local NGOs, capacity-building for lawyers, awareness-raising, legal advice and representation in court for victims, studies and publications.
- ASF undertakes strategic litigation involving human rights defenders under threat, such as those involving Floribert Chebeya and the Sirforco Company in Yalisika. In contributing to bringing about justice for those involved, ASF works towards achieving sustainable legal remedies to combat the problems at stake.
- ASF helps seven communities in Lisala in Equator to defend their rights against logging companies.
- ASF’s Uhaki Safi project is set up to raise awareness of rights, responding to the needs of those seeking justice, and improving provision of legal services.
- ASF campaigns against widespread illegal detentions before trial.
- ASF supports human rights defenders and other civil society activists taking part in debates on democracy, to strengthen their influence and enable widespread participation in public debates during the electoral process.
- ASF steps up its efforts to promote access to justice in Congo, supporting those taking part in conflict prevention and resolution, and strengthening mechanisms that can help to consolidate peace.