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DRC, ICC to strengthen cooperation in fight against war crimes impunity

Rose Mutombo, DRC Minister of Justice (L) and Karim Khan, ICC Prosecutor (R), sign an Memorandum of Understanding in Kinshasa, on June 2nd, 2023.   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

The government of Democratic Republic of Congo and the International Criminal Court prosecutor signed Thursday (June 1st) a memorandum of understanding to strengthen their cooperation.

The parties vowed to intensify the fight against impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

For pledges not to become vain wishes, the ICC chief prosecutor eyes "a new paradigm".

"I think the president has said repeatedly and he's shown that he's open to imaginative solutions. The MOU we've signed today is the first step in that and now we need to make sure we don't just speak; we deliver more effectively for the people of this country."

The ICC has handed down three sentences for crimes committed in the DRC since 2002.

Justice minister Rose Mutombo represented the Congolese government during the signing in Kinshasa.

President Tshisekedi reiterated his country's aspiration for an end to impunity.

"This renewed commitment reflects our desire to strengthen cooperation with your office [Editor's Note: Addressing the ICC chief prosecutor], which we see above all in the context of active and dynamic cooperation, geared towards the ideals of justice and peace that my country is leading today."

Armed groups have plagued much of eastern DRC for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.

The ICC handed down three sentences for crimes committed in the DRC since it started operating in 2002. The body launched its first investigations in the northeastern Ituri region in 2004.

ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan had spent four days in DR Congo, mainly in the conflict torn east.

"There has been good cooperation with the DRC," Khan said Thursday. But unfortunately, too many girls, too many boys, too many men and too many women continue to be violated and raped," he said.

"I have seen those victims. I have seen children who were raped that themselves have given birth to children that have been raped. And that cycle will continue unless we build these new partnerships," Khan added.

In late May, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo filed a complaint at the ICC in The Hague (Netherlands) against the "Rwandan army-M23 coalition" for crimes committed in the east of the country.

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