Saturday, May 07, 2011

D.R. Congo: Improving military justice in DR Congo

Source: UN Radio

Listen to the Interview

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the process of improving its military justice system.

The United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and its partners are helping the Congolese in these efforts.

Harriet Solloway, the Chief of Judicial Affairs at MONUC told Derrick Mbatha why it is important to strengthen military justice in the DR Congo.

SOLLOWAY: I think that many are aware of the problems of crimes perpetrated against the population, including sexual violence, pillage of natural resources that is also fuelling the conflict as well as other serious crimes including murder and others. So it's vital and it became clear fairly earlier on that if military justice were not reinforced there would be no way to deal with impunity with respect to these crimes as committed by the uniformed services or the illegal armed groups. As a consequence of this realization we were able to mobilize interest approximately five years ago, initially from the Canadians who are currently providing two military legal advisers who work closely with Congolese military justice.

MBATHA: If I may, where are these military advisers based?

SOLLOWAY: We have one based in Kinshasa whose primary function is to liaise with national authorities and we have one based in Goma, who is leading the investigative advisory team assigned to North Kivu in support of the military prosecutor there. In addition to providing the technical expertise we will be able to furnish essential equipment, including vehicles, tents, rations, everything that would enable the Congolese to do these investigations and build cases for the prosecution that will effectively try perpetrators. We also, I must say, have an American expert also assigned to prosecutions support cells and we are very gratified also for the collaboration that we have with the U.S. Defense Institute for International Legal Studies known as DILS which is a branch of the U.S. military which is also together with us, helping to train Congolese military justice officials and also collaborating with Congolese military justice officials and us in the training and sensitization, if you will of other branches of the Congolese military.

MBATHA: What are some of the challenges, given the size of the DR Congo Itself that you face as you try to strength this military justice in the country?

SOLLOWAY: I think there is no doubt that the size of the Congo, current financial constraints of partners and financial constraints within the Congolese budget itself really limit what can be done, despite all the good efforts that are being made.

MBATHA: What about personnel, Congolese personnel?

SOLLOWAY: There is certainly a deficit of qualified personnel or even numbers of personnel in the Congolese justice system.

MBATHA: If I were to ask you give me your prognosis of the future of the DR Congo in this area of justice or military justice what would that be?

SOLLOWAY: I think if given adequate budget the Congo can do very very well. I have met and had the pleasure of working in the Congo with jurists who are of the highest order and I believe that if they receive the adequate support that they could provide to their fellow citizens the level of justice that they deserve.