For over 15 years women in eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been subjected to mass sexual violence by a variety of armed groups, including the Congolese army, rebels, and militias. The chaos has also fostered an alarming increase in the rate of civilian rapes.
In an effort to end this culture of impunity, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Open Society Institute for Southern Africa (OSISA) have supported the development of mobile courts capable of trying the most serious mass rape cases, as well as other crimes.
OSISA and the Justice Initiative built on the existing system by developing an enhanced court model that would have the expertise and capacity to try gender crimes, and also to handle coordinated mass attacks, like that which occured in Fizi on New Year's Day 2011, that constitute crimes against humanity under international law. The court also has the discretion to hear other cases.
The mobile court project, which was implemented by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, operates within the Congolese justice system with local judges, prosecutors, and defense counsel. It conducts both civilian and military trials, depending on the status of the accused.