ABA ROLI partners with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations to train lawyers, police, prosecutors and judges, with the goal of promoting more effective investigation, prosecution and adjudication of SGBV cases. The trainings’ approach includes discussion groups that explore the cultural and social biases that may prevent full protection and recognition of rape and sexual violence as a crime punishable by law. ABA ROLI has also developed reference materials and case analyses on international law and on Congolese legislation and procedure. These efforts include an SGBV case law database in South Kivu, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which provides statistics on filed SGBV cases and legal analyses.
Recognizing the need for greater capacity in forensics techniques, especially related to cases of rape and mass graves, ABA ROLI is partnering with a Peruvian NGO, Equipo Peruano de Antropologia Forense, to build the capacity of Congolese police and community leaders to investigate cases of mass violence and rape using low-cost and sustainable forensic techniques. A key outcome will be the creation of a central database that includes data on mass graves and SGBV cases in North Kivu. The program will also form a working group of representatives from Congolese and international NGOs, the United Nations Mission in the DRC, community representatives and justice sector officials.
ABA ROLI organizes public events in the towns and provinces where it operates. These educate the public about DRC’s 2006 law on sexual violence and other relevant international treaties, and inform citizens about ABA ROLI’s pro bono legal aid clinics.
With support from an individual donor, ABA ROLI provides scholarships for five female law students in Congo. The scholarships cover the student’s tuition and living expenses, and each student will hold an internship that supports women’s rights in the country. Each of the young women plan to go on to support women’s rights in the DRC.
ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) is committed to sustainability and long-term institution building in the DRC. ABA ROLI currently works with local bar associations in North Kivu and Maniema provinces to provide effective representation to SGBV survivors. In North Kivu, ABA ROLI trained all members of the local bar on DRC’s code of criminal procedure, which they will use to investigate and prosecute sexual violence.
ABA ROLI also created a reference manual, which includes all ABA ROLI-developed training modules, and it was distributed to all North Kivu Bar Association members. The manual was also used to conduct trainings for the Maniema Bar Association. In Maniema, ABA ROLI is assisting the local bar in its efforts to open a physical office in Kindu.
In the eastern DRC, ABA ROLI operates nine programs to combat the country’s rape epidemic and other forms of SGBV. Our work spans North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema provinces and 16 towns. Through these programs, ABA ROLI:
From 2008 to 2011, our legal aid clinics offered pro bono legal counseling to roughly 6,000 survivors of sexual and gender based violence and helped to file more than 5,000 cases with local authorities, resulting thus far in more than 700 trials and 400 convictions.
Our work in Maniema. ABA ROLI is implementing a comprehensive, needs-based training and infrastructure support program in Maniema Province. This three-year, $5.2 million program, a partnership with HEAL Africa, is funded by the Dutch government. The program addresses every level of the provincial criminal justice system, from traditional community leaders to the highest court. The program features five pro bono legal aid clinics, training and material support to the courts, mobile courts to increase access to justice in rural areas, a prison rehabilitation, and scholarship program aimed at increasing the number of women law students, as well as internships at ABA ROLI’s legal aid clinics that increase the number of women in the legal profession committed to combating SGBV.
Our work in North Kivu. Since 2008, ABA ROLI has been operating a legal aid clinic in Goma, initially through the support of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy and Labor (DRL), and now through a grant from the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). Through this program, ABA ROLI operates legal aid clinics in Goma, Masisi, and Rutshuru where local staff attorneys provide legal and psychological counseling to SGBV survivors. ABA ROLI also partners with Heal Africa to provide medical support. In upper North Kivu, through the support of the MacArthur Foundation, ABA ROLI also operates a legal aid clinic in Butembo and partners with local organizations to provide services in Beni and Bunia.
Our work in South Kivu. As part of its grant from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, ABA ROLI operates two legal aid clinics (Bukavu and Uvira) and facilitates mobile courts to increase access to justice for women in remote communities. ABA ROLI helps secure basic transportation and lodging over the course of the trial and works with local bar associations to arrange defense counsel for suspects. Most notably, ABA ROLI facilitated a military mobile court in February 2011 that tried and convicted Lieutenant Colonel Kibibi and eight of his subordinates for the New Year’s Day attacks in Fizi, sentencing them to 10 to 20 years in prison. Kibibi is the highest commanding officer to have ever been tried and convicted for rape and crimes against humanity in the DRC. In South Kivu, ABA ROLI is also implementing two USAID-funded programs with International Medical Corp. and Inter-Church Medical Alliance. As part of these two programs, known as USHINDI and CASE (Care, Access, Safety, and Empowerment), ABA ROLI operates four additional clinics in South Kivu (Mwenga, Kitutu, Bunyakiri, and Kalonge), facilitates mobile courts, and trains local health care professionals and community leaders on the legal aspects of SGBV cases, including forensic and evidentiary issues. A key focus of both programs is also to provide legal counseling and representation to women on SGBV-related issues, inheritance and property rights and family law. Through these programs, ABA ROLI also operates legal aid clinics in Walikale, Ferenkeni, Obekote, Lubero, Alminbongo, Mutwanga, and Komanda.
Regional efforts. ABA ROLI is also implementing justice sector reform programs across multiple provinces. To enhance civilian protection in both North and South Kivu, ABA ROLI is operating a U.S. Department of State-funded early warning system that will serve as a central hub for alerting authorities to potential threats or outbreaks of violence in the remote areas of Walikale and Fizi. Information collected through this system will be centralized on an online map, which will be made available to assistance providers and government officials. ABA ROLI is also piloting satellite-internet video conferencing via a mobile internet vehicle to increase the capacity of rural police to obtain remotely issued medical certificates of rape and increase coordination between rural police and the Goma-based prosecutor’s office in investigating and prosecuting SGBV cases. Most recently, ABA ROLI also began working with local stakeholders in North Kivu, South Kivu and Maniema provinces on prison system reform, including protecting the rights of prisoners and detainees. With funding from the U.S. Department of State, ABA ROLI provides technical training on prison administration and assists Congolese stakeholders in developing sustainable solutions to persistent shortages of food, water, medical care and prolonged pre-trial detention.