Congo, Democratic Republic of the

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DR Congo is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria. It extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Eastern Plateau and covers most of the Congo River basin. The country shares borders with the Cabinda enclave (Angola) and the Republic of Congo in the west, the Central African Republic and South Sudan in the north, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania in the east, Zambia and Angola in the south. It is divided into 26 provinces.

With 81,331,050 million inhabitants and 450 ethnic groups, the DRC is the most populous French-speaking country. It has been a member of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie since 1977. If the official language is French, four other national languages are also recognized: Kikongo, Lingala, Tshiluba, and Swahili. The economy is mainly based on the primary sector (agriculture and mining).

The Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960. Shortly afterwards, Colonel Joseph Mobutu seized power by a coup, and proclaimed himself President in November 1965, changing the name of the country from "Republic of Congo" to "Zaire". From 197l (and until 1997), he implemented a "Zairianization" policy, which required that all private companies be owned by the State, and owned by true "Zairians".

This policy is based on the policy of "using authenticity". It draws its values from African cultural heritage, and is a rejection of the West and its policy of economic domination. It involved the forced adoption by all citizens of names deriving from the Congolese cultural heritage, the adoption of a new currency and the progressive nationalization of commercial and land properties that belonged to foreign nationals or financial groups.

After several years of glory, the Mobutu regime sank into large-scale corruption and abuse of public property. In addition, the structural adjustment policies implemented by the international financial institutions worsened the country's economic situation. In addition to the abuses linked to the dictatorship of the current regime, and the chaos resulting from political crises in neighbouring countries (in Rwanda and Burundi, in particular), these economic problems triggered a popular revolt. At the head of the rebel movement called "Alliance des Forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo", Laurent Désiré Kabila finally took power in May 1997. This takeover was preceded by a violent civil war, which is still raging in some parts of the country today.

Under its yoke, Zaire became the Democratic Republic of Congo, and relative economic and political stability gradually began to emerge. He was assassinated in January 2001 and his son, Joseph Kabila Kabange, who took over as head of state.

Under Kabila Jr., the Democratic Republic of Congo was confronted with recurrent political crises, one of the fundamental causes of which is the contestation of the legitimacy of the institutions and their leaders. In order to put an end to this chronic crisis of legitimacy and give the country every opportunity to rebuild itself, the delegates of the political class and civil society, met to organize an inter-Congolese dialogue. They agreed by the "Global and Inclusive Agreement" signed in Pretoria, South Africa on 17 December 2002, to put an end to hostilities.

Following the signing of the Pretoria Agreement, the transitional government, consisting of a President and four Vice-Presidents, drafted a new Constitution, adopted by referendum in December 2005. In 2006, presidential and legislative elections were held. Joseph Kabila Kabange ("Kabila son") is elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

With regard to the human rights situation, it should be noted that, since its independence, the DRC has faced numerous violent crises, accompanied by arbitrary arrests and summary executions. During Mobutu's time, human rights violations were mainly directed against opponents of the regime. After the fall of Mobutu, wars followed one another, bringing with them their share of murders, looting, destruction and many other human rights violations. The immense territory of DR Congo is destabilized by these massive violations, and violent clashes between rebel groups, particularly in eastern DRC, the former province of Katanga and the current province of Central Kasai.

Type of System

The DRC is a civil law country and as such the main provisions of its private law can be ultimately traced back to the 1804 Napoleonic Civil Code. More specifically, the Congolese legal system is primarily based on Belgian law. Customary or tribal law is another basis of the legal system of the DRC, where the majority of people live in rural areas. Tribal law regulates both personal status laws (like marriage and divorce laws) and property rights. Overall, notwithstanding significant policies and legal reforms the government has formulated and adopted, factors such as the lack of infrastructure, weak institutional capacity, and corruption undermine the effectiveness, stability and predictability of the legal system.

Criminal Law

Congolese criminal law is mainly set out in the 1941 Penal Code. Unlike Belgian and French law, Congolese law does not differentiate between felonies (crimes), misdemeanours (délits), and contraventions (contraventions). Congolese law refers to violations of the criminal or penal law, whether ordinary or military, as infraction (infraction).

Sources of Defendants' Rights

There are several fundamental principles of criminal procedure, some of which are set out in the Constitution. These principles include guarantees of due process during arrest and detention, the prohibition of retroactive laws, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial.

Defendants' Rights

Detainees must appear before a magistrate within 48 hours. Authorities must inform those arrested of their rights and the reason for their arrest, and may not arrest a family member instead of the individual being sought. They may not arrest individuals for non-felony offenses, such as debt and civil offenses. Authorities must allow arrested individuals to contact their families and consult with attorneys.

Legal Aid System

A legal aid system is in place since 1979, but is not state-sponsored. A law graduate has to complete a 2 year internship in a law firm. During these 2 years practice as an intern-lawyer, opportunity to become a “défenseur judiciaire” (literally: legal defender), that-is-to-say a legal aid lawyer. The défenseur judiciaire can represent pro-bono cases only before at the TGI (Tribunal de Grande Instance) jurisdictions. The Bar Association holds free consultations for indigents seeking legal counsel and some NGOs are also active in DRC.

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  • Prison population total (including pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners) - c.30,000 at January 2004 (criminal justice experts, D.R.Congo)
  • Prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population) - c.57 based on an estimated national population of 52.8 million at mid-2003.

Pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners (percentage of prison population) - A 2006 United Nations report found that 70-80 percent of prisoners detained nationwide were in pre-trial detention.

  • Female prisoners (percentage of prison population) 3.2% (January 2004 - of prisoners in the main prison in Kinshasa)
  • Number of establishments / institutions 213 in 2007 but fewer than 100 are functioning, according to the director of CPRK, which is the central prison in the capital Kinshasa)
  • Occupancy level (based on official capacity) July 2007 - 270.5% in the main prison in Kinshasa, there being 4,057 prisoners and an official capacity of 1,500
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