Military courts at the front in Congo

25 September 2006 by Franck Petit

Paradox? On March 3, 2004 the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo deferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) because "the Congolese authorities are unfortunately not in a position to investigate the crimes" under the Rome Statute. Today, the world court is the one that has produced mediocre results while the Congolese courts have been handing down rulings in a series of trials for some of the most serious crimes.

"As a consequence of complementarity [...] the absence of cases before the Court as a consequence of the regular functioning of national institutions, would be a major success," predicted Luis Moreno Ocampo when he was sworn in as ICC prosecutor on June 16, 2003. In fact, the presence of the Court, along with the field actions of the UN mission (MONUC) and NGOs such as Lawyers Without Borders and Citizen's network, have indeed prompted the emergence of some trials for serious crimes before national courts. Even though implementation of the Rome Statute, which Kinshasa ratified on March 30, 2002, is still being held up in the Congolese parliament, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide have been classified as crimes in the military code since 1972. This, along with the fact that military courts are less vulnerable to political pressure, has pushed these tribunals to the forefront.

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