To the Honorable Chairman and Honorable Members of Senate’s Political, Administrative, and Judicial Commission (PAJ)

RE: The PAJ Commission review of the draft bill on the specialized Court

Honorable Chairman,

Honorable Members of Senate’s Political, Administrative, and Judicial Commission,

Human rights organizations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) noted with satisfaction the inclusion of the adoption of the specialized court bill on Parliament’s special session agenda. We also commend the Senate for a positive ruling on its admissibility. We hope that this decision and its follow-up will create a better outcome for millions of Congolese victims whose longing for justice remains unfulfilled.

Furthermore, we celebrate parliament’s decision as recognition of many years of work by organizations and victims alike. Since 2005 the Congolese Coalition for Transitional Justice has worked in collaboration with several other human rights organizations to initiate a discussion on implementing transitional justice mechanisms. This work for justice and reparations is clearly needed for victims of serious crimes which have gone unpunished for more than a decade.

The establishment of a special court for DRC has always been one of our coalition’s recommendations in order to address the non-retroactivity of the Rome Statute. The United Nations Report of the Mapping, published October 1st, 2010, documents the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed in DRC between March 1993 and June 2003 also proposed a mixed court.

Honorable Chairman and Honorable Members of the PAJ, the bill under review has improved, both in substance and in form, since it was first submitted to public opinion in November 2010 by the Ministry of Justice.

Our organizations, which operate in several provinces around the country, are pleased to have contributed to it.

The existence of this Court offers a remedy to the legal vacuum caused by the non-retroactivity of the Rome Statute, and the lack of an international solution to the ad hoc tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. In addition, the creation of this Court has the advantage of being a Congolese answer to Congolese problems and a supplement to national reconciliation efforts which fail due to a lack of judicial mechanisms capable of independently prosecuting and punishing perpetrators of serious crimes. Accordingly, it is an opportunity for leaders of Congolese institutions at all levels to show their commitment and responsibility to our fellow Congolese citizens, victims of unjust horrors

Honorable Chairman and Honorable Members of the PAJ, as you start debating this bill, thousands of Congolese continue to be victimized each day. You have the historical burden of demonstrating to this population that it can still hope for justice.

In this crucial hour of our country we wish that this bill be given priority. The result of your discussion must reflect internationally established standards for human rights, including people’s right to life and therefore the refusal of the death penalty. In addition, we protest against any attempt to refer votes on this bill to the Greek calendar. The respect and trust of millions of Congolese demanding justice and truth are, without a doubt, worth more.

Honorable Chairman and Members, please accept our highest regards,

French version with signatory NGOs here.

Read Human Rights watch on the topic here