Increase in Court Rulings on Sexual Violence in North Kivu

Jul 12, 2016

Kalamata Lumanisaa Christian, President of the Beni district court

A monitoring mission for the joint programme “Tupinge Ubakaji” (fight against impunity, support for victims of gender-based violence and the empowerment of women in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) took place in Beni from 20 to 23 June. Its aim was to analyse the results obtained so far and formulate recommendations to meet anticipated performance levels for the end of the programme’s fourth year.

“Compared with last year, we can confirm that there have been significant advances in terms of understanding and ownership of the programme. We are also noticing a good synergy between the different components,” explains Abdoulaye Baldé, the Programme Coordinator.

“Even so, considerable challenges remain in this area, in terms of security but also in terms of communication, which needs to be strengthened. I am thinking in particular about the population who need to be made aware of the services on offer and the fact that they are free. The care of victims of sexual violence is done for free,” he adds.

The joint programme Tupinge Ubakaji is an initiative financed by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation through Global Affairs Canada. This five-year programme (2013-2017), which has a budged of 18 million Canadian dollars, has the main aim of contributing to the long-term reduction of the prevalence of sexual violence in the DRC. The execution of the programme has been entrusted to UNDP and UNFPA, with the support of the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) and UNESCO in three provinces: North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.

The programme also assists the Congolese government in the fight against sexual violence: “All the support is planned jointly with all the state institutions which identify the priority needs with regard to the different themes of the programme. Support is directed depending on these orientations,” explains Abdoulaye Baldé. This support has allowed jurisdictions to improve their working conditions and to provide a treatment service to victims.

The Beni district court is one of the beneficiaries of the programme. It has received one all-terrain vehicle, two motorbikes, four computers, a 15kVA generator to power the entire building, one printer and four inverters. In addition, the Beni public prosecutor’s office has received a Jeep, two cameras, four computers, a printer and four inverters.

Kalamata Lumanisaa Christian, President of the Beni district court

Thanks to the vehicles, judges can travel to the remotest prisons to investigate or rule on sexual violence cases. “Sometimes we have hearings at the prison in Kangbyi, 6km from Beni, and we go there in the four-by-four,” explains Kalamata Lumanisaa Christian, President of the Beni district court. This vehicle also allows them to reach mobile courts which are sometimes situated over 80km from Beni. UNDP also provides financial support for the organization of these mobile courts. This has resulted in an increase in rulings, particularly in sexual violence cases. In 2014, with this support from the programme, 46 verdicts, 35 of which concerned sexual violence, were delivered. In 2015, penalties were imposed in 61 cases, and from January 2016 to 31 May 2016, 23 final judgements were recorded.

Special committees to handle sexual violence cases

Judges from Kinshasa have been seconded to special enforcement committees dealing with sexual violence infractions in public prosecutors’ departments in the east of the DRC, to strengthen the case management of this kind of crime. There are seven of these committees, and they are attached to public prosecutors’ departments.

Liliane, Betty, Sandrine and Laurette, members of the committee of the Beni public prosecutor’s department, are in charge of the judicial treatment of sexual violence cases. “The Attorney General forwards all the sexual violence cases to the judges on the special committee. We are the ones who process and investigate, and cross-check all the necessary elements to decide whether to prosecute the alleged perpetrator of the offense in order to obtain a verdict,” explains Betty Kambalume, focal point of the committee.

“Thanks to the support of UNDP, we no longer have transport problems, we can conduct field visits with the vehicles, we can easily get to the prison in Kangbyi, 6km from Beni, and really, all that makes our work easier,” she adds. Of the sexual violence cases handled, 80% involve statutory rape.

The programme makes a substantial contribution to the fight against sexual violence and support for survivors in the east of the DRC. The coming months will require greater efforts to achieve the results that will change behaviour with regard to gender-based violence.

Fatou Tandiang

Article translated by Rebecca Neal

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