M23 rebels defend parallel justice system in eastern Congo

M23 rebels who have set up a parallel government in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo have defended their right to organize criminal trials.
General  Sultani Makenga with his Men
General Sultani Makenga with his Men

Kabasha Amani, a spokesman for the March 23 Movement (M23), said on Friday that the rebels could not ignore criminals in the areas they control.

Roger Meece, the head of the United Nations mission in Congo, has expressed concern over M23’s plans to hold a trial of 11 young men accused of unlawfully possessing weapons, saying that the proposed prosecution could not meet international standards.

“We are fighting criminality in the zone we control, and suspects must be put on trial,” Amani said. “If the UN thinks we should stop trying to administer our territory and should ignore criminals, we don’t think that would be a good thing. We have been holding trials and now we have trained some criminal investigators.”

Meece said in a statement issued on Wednesday that such trials “could not, in current circumstances, conform to international human rights standards nor would the accused have all the guarantees of a fair trial.”

He also called for “the immediate and unconditional dismantling of the M23’s illegitimate parallel administration.”

The M23 rebels seized the eastern city of Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city, which is home to about one million people. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord.

The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009.

Since early May 2012, nearly 3 million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but more than 460,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.


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