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[1]. 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.

Sources of Defendants' Rights

Internal sources of law

Many provisions in Congolese law relate to the rights of the accused and detainees.

The main texts applicable in criminal matters are:

- The Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo of 18 February 2006 as revised by Law No. 11/002 of 20 January 2011 revising certain articles of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo of 18 February 2006;

- Ordinance-law n°82-020 of 31 March 1982[2] on the Code of Judicial Organisation and Jurisdiction revised in 2013 by Organic Law n°13/011-B of 11 April 2013 on the organisation, functioning and competences of the courts of the judicial order;

- The decree of 6 August 1959 on the Code of Criminal Procedure, as amended and supplemented[3];

- Act No. 024-2002 of 18 November 2002 on the Military Criminal Code[4];

- Act No. 06/018 of 20 July 2006 on the suppression of sexual violence in the DRC [5];

- Act No. 09/001 of 10 January 2009 on the protection of children [6];

- The decree of 21 June 1937 on the rehabilitation of convicted persons [7];

- Ordinance 344 of 17 September 1965 on the Penitentiary System [8];

- Ordinance-law n°82-017 of 31 March 1982 relating to proceedings before the Supreme Court of Justice[9]

Regional and international sources

In addition to this important arsenal at the domestic level, other regional and international laws are applicable in the DRC. They consist of the set of standards for the protection and promotion of human rights enshrined in international legal instruments duly ratified by the DRC.

Article 215 of the Constitution provides that international treaties and agreements duly concluded shall, upon their publication, have an authority superior to that of laws, subject for each treaty or agreement to its application by the other party.

Thus, any person can claim a right set out in the international instruments that the State of the DRC has regularly ratified. It is worth mentioning as an example:

- The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights; (ratified by the Democratic Republic of Congo on 23/07/1987)[10]

- The International Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; (ratified by the Democratic Republic of Congo on 18 March 1996[11]

- The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; (ratified by the Democratic Republic of Congo on 11 April 2002)[12]

- The Rules of Procedure and Evidence of 9 September 2002[13];

- The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 19 December 1966; (ratified by the DRC on 1 November 1976)[14]

- The International Convention on the Rights of the Child; (ratified by the DRC on 27 September 1990)[15]

- The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; (The DRC has not yet signed or ratified this charter)

- The 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols (ratified by the DRC on 24 February 1961)[16]

In addition to these binding texts, there are other texts that are not binding, but whose rules are considered to be part of international custom. This is the case of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Rights of the accused at all times

Legal Aid System

Rights of the accused at the police stage

Pre-trial detention

The trial

Prisoner's rights


See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World


  • 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
  • Total prison population (including pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners): 20,550 (2015)
  • Percentage of pre-trial detainees/remand prisoners: 73.0% (2015)
  • Percentage of women in prison: 3.0% (2010)
  • Number of prisons: 120 (2013)
  • Prison overcrowding is estimated at 20,000 people according to the UN (2016). For example, in September 2012, Makala Central Prison in Kinshasa had 6,078 inmates, four times the actual capacity of the prison, which is 1500. Goma Central Prison had 1,208 inmates, eight times the prison's capacity of 150. The Minister of Justice announced in early 2016 that the DRC would release 2000 prisoners in order to reduce prison overcrowding

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