April 16, 2013

The ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen more than 5 million casualties since it began in 1998. It is the bloodiest war since World War II, and has been called “Africa’s world war.”

With armed actors targeting civilians and using rape as a weapon of war, women and children have been disproportionately and uniquely affected by the conflict. Victims of rape often suffer severe physical and psychological harm, as well as pregnancies and stigma by their communities.

In the effort to fight impunity for rape and other atrocity crimes, the international community has funded mobile courts that travel to remote regions of the DRC’s eastern provinces to provide judicial recourse for victims. Guilty verdicts provide both prison sentences for the perpetrators and reparations for the victims. However, payment of these reparations has proven to be difficult.

A Capstone team under the guidance of Professor Yasmine Ergas recently travelled to the DRC to look at the different mechanisms that facilitate or hinder the payment of reparations to victims of sexual violence.  A lack of infrastructure and political will, and the fact that conflict continues, create significant challenges.

Team members interviewed both international and Congolese stakeholders including judges, lawyers, military officials, officials at MONUSCO, UNDP, and OHCHR, and local NGO workers. Incorporating the many perspectives on this complex situation, they are compiling a report for the use of human rights advocates on potential ways to ensure this critical phase of justice.

Pictured above are Randi Aho MIA ’13 and Delaney Simon MIA ’13 at the office of the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI). Other team members are Julien Barbey MIA ’13, Katie Bowman MIA ’13, Tiffany Esteb MIA ’13, Winfrida Mbewe MPA ’13 , Anna Richardson MIA ’13, and Naoko Udagawa MIA ’13.