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.