The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim A.A. Khan KC, concludes his first visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the signing of a new Memorandum of Understanding, renewing cooperation towards justice in the DRC
I have concluded my first visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (“DRC”) since assuming my functions as ICC Prosecutor.
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the President of the DRC, H.E. Mr Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, for the invitation and for facilitating this mission. By engaging with a range of DRC authorities and hearing directly from survivors who have suffered from the most serious of crimes, we sought to set a new path towards meaningful justice in the DRC. Through frank and focused discussions, I set out a roadmap through which I believe we can, together, more effectively combat impunity.
At the conclusion of my visit in Kinshasa, the Minister of Justice of the DRC and I formalised this new approach through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. As President Félix Tshisekedi stated, this reflects our common desire to strengthen cooperation within a new framework of dynamic complementarity, focused on delivering concrete deliverables. In tangible terms, this agreement will set the basis for us to:
Accelerate implementation of the DRC national strategy in addressing serious international crimes through « Priority Cases »;
Enhance national accountability institutions’ capability to effectively address allegations of international crimes;
Conduct a joint DRC-ICC comprehensive mapping of cases that may be taken forward by DRC authorities or by my Office in line with the principle of complementarity. Subject to DRC judicial authorisation, this could include undertaking ICC proceedings in situ; and
Increase the support provided by my Office to DRC authorities, including through;
Deployment of forensics experts in support of national efforts to protect and excavate mass grave sites, securing crucial evidence of crimes;
Facilitating the sharing of good practices from other States Parties in the field of evidence collection and preservation.
This is an important step, but as we now move forward and implement this vision, we must not lose sight of those I have met in the DRC, to whom the words of justice currently ring hollow.
In Bukavu, I joined my voice with Dr Denis Mukwege, calling for an end to sexual violence, and acknowledging the importance of reparations for victims of Rome Statute crimes in the judicial process. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to visit Dr Denis Mukwege’s facility and humbled by my meetings with those who have received the critical support of his clinic. I commended those I met for engaging and sharing their stories with the Office. It is imperative that the voices of survivors play a central role in criminal justice efforts in the DRC.
In Bunia, my delegation and I met with victims of sexual and gender-based violence who received rehabilitation services from the Trust Fund for Victims at the ICC. I praised their critical role in our work and stressed the need to ensure they are empowered across all avenues for accountability, including at the domestic level.
In Kinshasa, local civil society organisations and NGOs stressed the importance of a new approach where, in addition to the ICC, a robust national mechanism must play a more enhanced role in the fight against impunity.
I would like to conclude with a message that reflects the direct, open discussions I have had: For 20 years, we have worked in a certain way and the simple reality is that crimes, violence and rape did not stop. We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect different results. There must be real will and firm determination by all partners to do better. We must work together with key stakeholders, including the African Union, and regional and/or international organisations, in order to achieve an impact that will be felt by victims and populations afflicted by these serious crimes.
Finally, I wish to also express my thanks to the Minister of Justice of the DRC, H.E. Ms Rose Mutombo Kiese, the Minister of Human Rights H.E. Mr Albert-Fabrice Puela, the Chargé de mission of the Head of State in charge of cooperation with the ICC, Professor Taylor Lubanga, and to all the national and local authorities who dedicated time to accompany or meet with me during this visit.
It would also not have been possible without the support of MONUSCO staff under the leadership of H.E. Ms Bintou Keita, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with whom I also held an extremely positive and fruitful meeting. MONUSCO will be critical partners as we move forward on the path we have now set for collective action.