IBJ’s work in the DRC started in 2016 with the opening of a Defender Resource Center in Bukavu, in the province of South-Kivu. This center acts as the hub for DRCBJ’s activities, which include the creation of basic rights awareness campaigns, the monitoring and visiting of detention centers, providing legal aid for accused women by female lawyers, and training defense lawyers.
Impact in Numbers
There is a great need for access to legal counsel in the DRC. While torture is criminalized in the country, individuals in pre-trial detention are still extremely vulnerable to physical, mental, and sexual abuse, including torture. With 73% of the DRC’s prison population made of pre-trial detainees, IBJ concentrates its efforts to provide legal help to individuals who are too poor to otherwise afford a lawyer. In the first five months of activities in the country, IBJ was able to provide legal representation to over 100 people, paving the way forwards for good and fair legal practice.
- 45 lawyers trained.
- 1624 cases represented by IBJ lawyers.
- 204 justice officials and civil society organisations’ members trained through roundtables.
- 16236 people directly reached by rights awareness campaigns.
- More than 4 million people reached through radio campaigns.
IBJ first signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Justice in the Democratic Republic of Congo in May 2016. Since then, strategic partnerships have been created with other justice sector stakeholders (Bukavu Bar Association, Bukavu Judicial Defense Corps, the Provincial Division of Justice, the Task Force on International Criminal Justice, Prosecutor’s office at the Kavumu County Court, South Kivu Courts of Appeals), national and international organizations (National Commission for Refugees, informal partnerships with both the ICRC and UNHCR in Sud-Kivu), and the Catholic University of Bukavu.
High impact successes include:
- In March 2020, DRCBJ’s plea to make lawyers essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic was heard, allowing them to continue their tasks and practice.
- In 2020 alone, DRCBJ took on 286 cases and provided free legal aid.
Prosecution was abandoned in 101 cases, 16 individuals obtained provisional release and 49 had their sentence reduced.17 children were granted release by reprimand.
- A women lawyer’s network has been created in South Kivu. Its sessions aim to engage women lawyers in volunteering to defend the rights of women in detention and to develop their professional skills with the help of their peers.
- 30 recommendations for good practices were made following roundtable discussions on the rights of women in detention.
- In the DRC, we provide training, tools, manuals and eLearning, developed with our partners, funded through grants, and resourced through pro-bono assistance.
- DefenseWiki in English, French and Spanish– references, legal codes, and assessments
- Defender Manual – Criminal Defender ToolKit – French
- eLearning Modules – in-depth and topic-focussed training (login required).
What we need
There are many ways to get involved, to help make a long term difference. Please get in touch.