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Great Lake region seeks to end series of injustices to war victims in DRC

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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Céline Jackson is one of the Congolese people who have paid a heavy price for the violence that the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced in recent years.

She has lived through the main episodes of these dark pages, for which neighboring countries are often blamed, but she demands justice and reparation.

"I was a victim in the wars since I was too small and besides my friends who grew up with me in Nyamilima were all killed, I saw others raped in my eyes. In any case, the Congolese government must do everything to see if a tribunal should be established and justice for these victims, because there are those who are still suffering and have lost the joy of living," Celine said.

In Goma, Eastern DRC, judicial experts from Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC are meeting to reflect on how to fight serious crimes in the Great Lakes countries and promote the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa.

International organizations specializing in these matters believe that these three countries, which are often victims of insecurity and conflicts that lead to gross human rights abuses and violence, should cooperate on all fronts to put an end to this violence and by organizing a special international tribunal in the region.

"We believe that international jurisdictions and national judges must be included in a process aimed at prosecuting and punishing these crimes, which - are once again extremely serious. A special international tribunal look into these crimes is interesting, but it is not enough, because it is necessary to be closer not only to the victims but also to the perpetrators, so as to provide a response that is best adapted to the context and local realities," said Margaux Wipf, Coordinator of the programme for the promotion of the rule of law in sub-Saharan Africa.

The participants in this meeting also condemned the fact that international crimes continue to fuel instability because the alleged perpetrators escape pressure until they are prosecuted.

They recommended that the three states update and harmonize existing legal texts with international standards to make legal cooperation effective and to fight impunity, but also to encourage the popularisation of the legislative framework of the states in the Great Lakes region.

"We want criminals to no longer be able to escape when the law is being broken, to ensure that procedures are harmonized so that offenders can be prosecuted in one area so that they do not have an advantage in another country in the region since the measures that will be applied in one country will be applied in another country so that they will no longer be able to escape justice because they have just crossed the border," said Julien Gustave Kavaruganda, the President of the Rwandan Bar Association

The east of the DRC is part of the Great Lakes region of Africa, bordered by Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda.

Three provinces in eastern Congo have been the scene of deadly conflicts for decades.

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