In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), complaints against the presumed perpetrators of sexual violence are on the increase. Over 3000 complaints were received by civilian and military jurisdictions in 2016, versus 2414 complaints in 2015. The increase is justified by a strong involvement of the military justice in addressing cases of rape.
It is not quite easy for a victim of rape to file a complaint to the court in DRC. Due to fear for reprisals or shame to be rejected by one's family or relations, the majority of the victims of sexual violence opt for keeping silence. Yet some progress have been noticed over the past three years. In civilian and military jurisdictions, complaints are increasingly received against presumed perpetrators of rapes.
According to a recent report issued by "veille judiciaire/judiciary awakening" of the Office of the Personal Representative (OPR) of the Head of State responsible for the fight against sexual violence and child s recruitment, 3085 complaints were received in 2016 by civilian and military jurisdictions of the DRC. In 2015, the statistics suggested 2414 complaints received by all the jurisdictions, say an increase of 27% of all the complaints received.
The statistics show the progress made and the challenges faced by the DRC in the area of the fight against sexual violence. Between September and December 2015, BRP initiated, in partnership with the ministries of Defense and Justice, the first judiciary monitoring tours to major civilian and military jurisdictions in the country to collect judiciary statistics about the complaints filed by the victims of rapes. In collaboration with a restrictive team of High magistrates; the missions received substantial statistics for 2014 (3061 complaints) and 2015.
Military Jurisdictions : 496 complaints, 225 convictions
Following this first experience ; new monitoring teams put in place by BRP to collect detailed data from all the DRC jurisdictions in the area of sexual violence travelled to three provinces (ex-Katanga, North-Kivu, ex-Bandundu), between November and December 2016. They checked criminal records from court registrars in the different civilian and military jurisdictions to ensure that the data are reliable. The registrars' office "provided accurate and verifiable information regarding the proceedings from the registration of cases up to the Court's Decision", reports the team of OPR's "veille judiciaire".
In the other provinces of the DRC, BRP worked in collaboration with the magistrates of the public prosecutor's office, to monitor the data collection. The High military Court and the Supreme Court of Justice were associated to this activity
So, in the 49 DRC's military jurisdictions (1 High military Court, 13 military courts and 35 garrisons' military courts), 496 complaints for rape were received and 225 convictions issued in 2016. On the preceding year (2015), those jurisdictions received 195 complaints, and 74 convictions were issued. "This progress is simply due to the fact that the military justice provided details of all the jurisdictions", highlighted Me Yvette Ali, who was on the monitoring team.
"Access to Justice by Victims must be improved"
Civilian jurisdictions received, for their part, 2589 complaints through the criminal registrars' office of the high courts and courts of appeal in the DRC in 2016, versus 2219 complaints in 2015. Say, an increase of 16% of complaints. They issued respectively 614 and 918 convictions.
Data received from civilian jurisdictions are not sufficient. "An effort must be made by those jurisdictions. Therefore the capacities for the registrars staff must be enhanced to enable them to take accurate notes, in accordance with the harmonized plans, of all the cases of sexual violence", comments Me Yvette Ali. According to the report issued by "veille judiciaire" 2016, OPR must intensify its relations with the higher jurisdictions in order to receive, in future, complete data from all the civilian jurisdictions.
Compared to the previous years, we note that confidence is being restored towards the justice apparatus, in regard to the complaints received in 2016 from the different jurisdictions, whether civilian or military. Several other cases are still unknown to the justice, says a collaborator of Ms. Jeanine Mabunda, the Personal Representative of the Head of State in charge of the fight against Sexual Violence and child's recruitment. "Sensitization must proceed. Access to justice by the Victims must be improved."
Beyond the convictions, victims continue to expect reparations
The Substitute of the Public Prosecutor s office in Bukavu, Léon Kahindo is closely monitoring the work done by the different jurisdictions that daily run the cases relating to the sexual violence in the South Kivu. "In general, the victims of rapes who file the complaints are relieved of their pains when the presumed rapists are actually convicted and do serve their sentence in detention areas", he said.
Those convicted persons should also pay the fines and reparations due to the victims. Unfortunately "such is not often the case yet, especially for the police and military officers whose employer, the Congolese Government, does not generally pay."
However, the populations are happy to note that cases of rapes are diminishing progressively among the army and police forces, who are increasingly involved in the fight against impunity.
As far as the presumed rapists are concerned, many of them appeal against court’s decisions, as they are persuaded that they may be cleared of their charges. "Sometimes they are cleared and released when justice, due to lack of evidence; at the end of the day, release them", explains Léon Kahindo. However, the authorities are doing everything in their power to ensure that trials are fair both for the victims and the accused.