The first investigation of the International Criminal Court will concern the situation in Democratic Republic of Congo : A great hope for the victims of a conflict with a regional dimension

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the ASADHO, the League of Electors and the Lotus Group, welcome the opening of the first investigation, announced yesterday by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo.

From September 2003, the Prosecutor stated that the situation in Ituri - East of Congo - would be considered as a priority by his office. On March, 3rd 2004, president Joseph Kabila asked M. Moreno to investigate the situation in DRC since July, 1st 2002 (see FIDH press release April, 23th 2004).

The opening of the investigation, announced today by the Prosecutor, marks a new step in the effective repression of the perpetrators of the gravest crimes. It reaffirms the victims’ right to an effective remedy. It also demonstrates the capacity of the Court to act in spite of some states resistance.

The FIDH recalls that the Court has jurisdiction on all perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide committed on Congolese territory, whatever their nationality.

The FIDH and its partners in Democratic Republic of Congo call the Congolese authorities to fully cooperate with all the organs of the International Criminal Court. They must facilitate the Office of the Prosecutor investigations and allow the victims to access the Court through the Registry.

The DRC must immediately adopt an implementation law of the ICC Statute and sign the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities, which entered into force the 22th June 2004.

No political consideration should interfere with this cooperation and thus weaken the requirement of justice.

The FIDH and its member organisations recall that the ICC must guarantee an effective protection for victims and witnesses and ensure the right of victims to participate at all stages of the proceedings, as provided by the Rome Statute.

The FIDH considers the Prosecutor’ announcement as essential in the context of violence which prevails once again in Eastern DRC. The start of ICC operational activities, first permanent international criminal jurisdiction, must contribute to establish a sustainable peace in the country and prevent the commission of new grave violations of human rights.

The FIDH announces the organisation of a training session on ICC for eight representatives of non governmental Congolese organisations in its office in The Hague from June, 28th. This session will facilitate the discussion between representatives of the civil society and the Court, and guarantee a better use of Court mechanisms by the representatives of Congolese victims.

Moreover, the FIDH learnt that the US government renounced to ask for the renewal of the Security Council resolution exempting American soldiers from the International Criminal Court jurisdiction (see our press release of 05/21/2004). Facing the disapproval from many States, the civil society and the UN Secretary general, American authorities, unable to gather enough votes at the Council, finally recognized their isolation.

The FIDH considers that it is an significant victory for the international community against "exceptionalism".
However, the FIDH will remain watchful, and insists that the future Security Council resolutions must not contradict the message sent today on a case by case basis.

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