The Institute for War and Peace Reporting Netherlands, IWPR, in partnership with Open Society Justice Initiative has been meeting with local actors in the DRC to understand how much they know about the International Criminal Court, ICC, and the trial of Thomas Lubanga.
The impressions so far in North Kivu province from both civil society and the legal community is that there is little knowledge about the workings of the ICC in The Hague but a great interest in finding out more.
A representative from the sexual violence NGO Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles, SFVS, in Goma said she needs more information about the court in order to properly inform the victims with whom she works.
“Sometimes the victims want to understand if the ICC can provide justice to them and how. The problem is that we do not know a lot about the ICC.”
When asked if other NGOs were better informed, another SFVS representative said no. “We are all in the same situation. They don’t get access to the right information about the ICC and the Lubanga trial,” she said.
SFVS and others told us they are concerned at the slow pace of the Lubanga trial and questioned why victims are still waiting for justice and reparation more than three years after Lubanga was taken to The Hague.
“If there were a judgement it would be better for the victims but also for Lubanga, because there is a need for him to know his situation. It is too slow the way the ICC is dealing with crimes in DRC,” said an SFVS member.
CRONGD, a network of development NGOs that promote peace and justice, also has concerns. We met the executive secretary of CRONGD at his office. He was happy to talk about the ICC and the Lubanga trial but also believes the court is not moving fast enough, particularly in the Kivu provinces.
“We have heard that the ICC has also started investigation in the Kivus, but why is it slow? And why does it not execute the previous arrest warrants against some people?”
A representative of the Justice and Peace Commission praised the lubangatrial.org project and expressed the need for more information on the ICC in general, the Lubanga trial and Congo’s own justice system.
“We appreciate the ICC’s work,” he said. “The ICC can reach very powerful people our justice could not reach, but the work is slow.
“I don’t know the development of the Lubanga trial because I have no documentation on it.
“I participated in an exchange day on the ICC two years ago. It was interesting but since then, I have not gotten another opportunity to learn on the ICC and the different trials there. Could you provide some information that can help us understanding how we can contribute to the prosecution of the other criminals?”
Another member of the civil society added, “There is lack of information not only of Lubanga’s trial but also on the ICC activities. We would like to have information, but we don’t get any.
After such meetings we can conclude that the need of information on the ICC and the Lubanga trial is great.
The 20 NGOs and media groups we have met agree on the fact that there is a lack of information on the Lubanga’s trial that Congolese people don’t know much about what is going on at the ICC, despite the fact that most of the detainees in The Hague are Congolese. This is also the case for people who should be more interested in the trial, like lawyers and leaders of NGOs.
We also understand that the local actors support the IWPR and OSI project to disseminate information on the Lubanga trial as but would like it extended to include the Congolese justice system. “Why only speak about the Lubanga trial? Why not speak about the Congolese justice system?” asked Immaculée Biraheka from the Programme d’Appui aux Initiatives des Femmes, PAIF.
When asked about the IWPR and OSI joint project on the Lubanga trial, one civil society activist answered, “It is a good project. We support the idea. We would like you to help us accessing information on the trial and on the ICC’s activities. If you have some material to give to us, it would be wonderful.”
Charles Mukandirwa Wetemwami is the www.lubangatrial.org liaison officer based in Goma, DRC.