The Democratic Republic of Congo Military justice and human rights – An urgent need to complete reforms
This discussion paper will review some of those issues, which are analysed in greater detail in the main report: Democratic Republic of Congo: Military justice and human rights – An urgent need to complete reforms. By examining Congolese military justice within its historical and institutional contexts, the main report outlines its strengths and weaknesses and defines the necessary conditions for its reform. The present paper focuses on the points that warrant urgent and specific attention by the authorities in charge of conducting military justice reforms. It picks out the issues analysed in the main report that seem to be most urgently in need of reform. It also proposes directions for such reforms. The objective of the proposed reforms is to ensure that military justice complies as closely as possible with the principles laid down by the constitution and international standards regarding the independence of the justice system and the right to a fair trial.
In particular, the report highlights three areas of urgent reform. First, the jurisdiction of military courts should be restricted to members of the military, and not extend to civilians. Secondly, the independence of military judges should be guaranteed and political interference in the conduct of trials cease. Thirdly, much stronger protections should be given to ensure the right to a fair trial in the military courts, in particular by limiting the discretionary power of the military judges. These reforms will need to be paired, of course, with parallel reforms in the ordinary court system, to ensure that civilians accused of serious crimes can be brought to justice with respect for due process.
The principle of local ownership of SSR will have little import if it is treated simply as a romantic and woolly concept. In practical terms it means that the reform of security
policies, institutions and activities in a given country must be designed, managed and implemented by local actors rather than external actors.
The principle is misconstrued if it is understood to mean that there must be a high level of domestic support for donor activities. What is required is not local support for donor programmes and projects but rather donor support for programmes and projects initiated by local actors. The question for donor governments is not “how can we undertake SSR in partner countries?” but “how can we support local actors who want to undertake SSR in partner countries?”.
The principle does not preclude donors seeking to stimulate and encourage local interest in SSR. Nor does it preclude international actors putting pressure on governments whose security forces violate human rights. Nevertheless, the actual reform of the security sector must be shaped and driven by local actors.
To read the full publication, No Ownership, No Commitment: A Guide to Local Ownership of Security Sector Reform, please follow the link provided.
Over the past two decades, in response to the underwhelming results of international development efforts across the Third World, arguments concerning the importance of local ownership have been gaining currency within the international development community. At its core, the discourse around ownership revolves around fundamental questions of agency: who decides, who controls, who implements, and who evaluates. The growing emphasis on local ownership, then, emerged as a critique of mainstream development practice and the broader cult of Western expertise which underpins it. As Joseph Stiglitz argued a decade ago, a vision of development in which all the answers and all the agency are seen to lie in the hands of foreigners is inherently problematic and ultimately self-defeating: ‘We have seen again and again that [local] ownership is essential for successful transformation: policies that are imposed from outside may be grudgingly accepted on a superficial basis, but will rarely be implemented as intended’. Since then, the principle of local ownership has been viewed increasingly as a precondition for effective development assistance, even if
the translation of the principle into actual practice remains an ongoing challenge.
The meaningful participation of beneficiaries in aid programmes directed to human rights reform is crucial to their success. Their views on ways to improve them deserve serious attention. In interviews with beneficiaries in four countries we were told that aid for reform has had an impact. In the justice sector (the focus of our study) foreign
aid has facilitated constitutional development and legislative reforms and helped expand civil society and transform the justice system. Aid programmes have helped introduce human rights concepts into public consciousness and public institutions in societies where such notions were once seen as subversive.
We were also told that human rights assistance can be wasteful and even do harm. Badly conceived and implemented programmes have sheltered repressive regimes from scrutiny, wasted vital resources and distorted domestic institutions. Donors sometimes promote inappropriate models and put their foreign policy interests before human rights. They can be unreliable partners, subject to quick fixes and too much attention on “exit strategies”. Success depends on many factors, not least paying more attention to local perspectives. This report sets out some of the main issues. It offers signposts that we hope will be useful to both donors and beneficiaries looking for ways
to strengthen the impact of human rights assistance.