DR Congo

DR Congo: Louise Arbour visits Bunia

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Carmine Camerini / MONUC

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was in Bunia on May 17 2007, for a short visit with MONUC's human rights director Fernando Castanon, in order to meet with local human rights organizations and local civilian and military justice authorities, as well as international NGO's that are supporting the rehabilitation of the justice system in Ituri.

The High Commissioner said that in the domain of justice, the success of every initiative needs the partnership and cooperation of the government. She also gave her impressions on the impact of justice reform. In effect, she sees the risks of 'a rehabilitation programme for the justice system that is very bureaucratic with many administrative demands, because in the long term the population will lose their faith in it.'

In other words, she believes that to better serve the population you need to have measures that will have an impact in the short to medium term. With this perspective, she suggested that one needs to develop other ways of resolving conflicts peacefully, taking into account the cultural realities on the ground.

She also indicated that 'the needs in relation to rights of criminals should not overshadow the fundamental rights of the family,' and that this is always in the objective of preventing conflicts that might arise from deficiencies in the system.

In relation to the grave human rights violations in the DRC from 1993 to 2003, which are outside the remit of the International Criminal Court, Dr. Arbour explained that 'the truth needs to be defined on a credible table, based on the recent historical events in the country.' She added that this document will serve as 'a reference document to eliminate all revisionism.'

This initiative should also allow the payment of compensation to victims and bring the perpetrators to justice. The objective is also to envisage the exclusion of all public or administrative charges in relation to those held responsible. The project, with a six to eight month duration, is envisaged to have an impact in the short to medium term. Furthermore, Dr. Arbour affirmed the support of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and DRC President Joesph Kabila.

Finally Dr. Arbour reiterated her strong determination in the fight on violence against women. She also assured her audience that 'this preoccupation will be at the centre of my next intervention in front of the UN Security Council.'

More generally, when one speaks of human rights violations the first concern is the support for victims. In the long term Dr. Arbour suggested the putting in place of initiatives targeted at dissuasion, and to advance it as a priority, as well as the affirmation of criminal responsibility.