Fighting Impunity for Sexually Violent Crimes Whilst Upholding the Right to a Fair Trial: What effect have international attention and NGO influence had on procedural rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo?
The mobile courts in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been implemented with the financial and logistical support of the international community since 2004. Due to earmarked funding and the international rhetoric surrounding the prevalence of sexual violence in the country, they have been used, overwhelmingly, to bring sexual violence crimes to trial. This thesis looks at the work of the mobile courts and evaluates their adherence to the right to a fair trial. The right to a fair trial under international law is analysed in isolation, and in the context of its presence in the mobile courts. The thesis questions whether the right to a fair trial is being upheld in the mobile courts, and if not, whether this is connected to expected outcomes of the fight against impunity. In order to determine the adherence to and visibility of international fair trial standards, a survey was conducted with persons working with the mobile courts. The thesis concludes that the potential for conflict between the fight against impunity and the upholding of fair trial standards for the accused is present in the mobile court system. It is suggested that when justice capacity-building is carried out as part of sexual violence response, there is greater focus on fighting impunity - as evidenced through high numbers of convictions and high case turnover. Certain aspects of a fair trial are sacrificed to achieve desired results, and the satisfaction of stakeholders. The thesis argues that there is a need for more focus on the right to a fair trial in justice capacity and Rule of Law development.