[JURIST] A coalition of 146 Congolese and international human rights organizations released a joint declaration [text, PDF] Tuesday urging the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder] to create new mechanisms in its national justice system for prosecuting war crimes. Specifically, the declaration urged the Congolese government and its president, Joseph Kabila [Britannica profile], to establish specialized mixed chambers and adopt legislation implementing the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] during the current parliamentary session. The proposed specialized mixed chambers “will have jurisdiction only over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and will thus concentrate expertise and resources on investigating and prosecuting these very complex crimes.” The ICC implementing legislation will introduce into Congolese law “the definitions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in accordance with the ICC treaty and regulates cooperation between Congolese authorities and the court.” The declaration states that creating the proposed judicial structure could be instrumental in finally bringing to justice those responsible for the “repeated cycles of violence and impunity over the past two decades.”
The organizations that put forth the declaration are “greatly encouraged” with the DRC’s “stated commitments” to seriously address atrocities that have been ongoing in the war-torn country. Acts of violence, allegedly carried out by both governmental and rebel forces, have drawn the attention of the international community for many years. The UN, especially, has recently been pressuring the DRC to address the widespread human rights offenses occurring in the country. Last August the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights announced [JURIST report] that unless the DRC starts respecting human rights, it will be unable to achieve national stability. The following month another UN official emphasized [JURIST report] the need to address the issue of impunity for those responsible for human rights violations in the country, which she claimed had increased over the previous year. In September the UN released [JURIST report] a report welcoming the establishment of a national human rights commission in the DRC although the rights abuses continued and there had not yet been any proceedings against state abusers.