iPeace lance un projet pour aider les femmes impliquées dans commerce transfrontalier informel entre la RDC et le Rwanda
Avec l’appui financier du Royaume des Pays-Bas, Initiatives pour la Paix et les Droits Humains (iPeace) a, en partenariat avec Pro-Femmes/Twese Hamwe (PFTH), lancé officiellement le 11 mars à Goma, Chef-Lieu de la Province du Nord-Kivu, le projet d’autonomisation des femmes impliquées dans le commerce transfrontalier entre la RDC et le Rwanda. Baptisée conférence des partenaires stratégiques, la cérémonie de lancement a mis autour d’une table les institutions étatiques (gouvernementales et provinciales), les organisations de la société civile et les organismes internationaux dont les activités portent sur le commerce transfrontalier dans la Région des Grands Lacs.
En effet, Le commerce transfrontalier informel devient de plus en plus une source d'emplois, de revenus en devises et de bien-être socio-économique pour les pays en voie de développement. Ce commerce joue un rôle crucial pour assurer la sécurité alimentaire, pour la survie quotidienne de milliers de ménages et pour la coexistence pacifique entre les populations de la région des Grands Lacs. La frontière entre la RDC et le Rwanda est parmi les plus fréquentées d'Afrique en ce qui concerne le commerce transfrontalier informel. Il est rapporté que plus de 5 000 personnes traversent quotidiennement la frontière entre la RDC et le Rwanda dans les deux sens pour échanger des produits alimentaires de base tels que le lait, les tomates, les légumes, les œufs, les fruits, les céréales ou les légumineuses ; ou des services comme la garde d'enfants, la coiffure, le blanchissage et l'entretien du jardin. Cette activité est principalement exercée par des femmes (83% des commerçants) pour qui ce commerce représente leur principale source de revenus.
Malgré les efforts remarquables des gouvernements de ces deux pays pour faciliter les échanges commerciaux, il existe encore des défis énormes auxquels les petits commerçants transfrontaliers font face au quotidien. C’est ainsi que depuis décembre 2019, iPeace en partenariat avec Pro-Femmes Twese Hamwe grâce au soutien financier du Royaume des Pays-Bas exécute le projet « Autonomisation des femmes impliquées dans le petit commerce transfrontalier informel dans la région des Grands Lacs » pour contribuer dans l’amélioration de l’environnement du commerce informel transfrontalier entre la RDC et le Rwanda. Alors que PFTH mettra en œuvre les activités du projet au Rwanda, iPeace est en charge de la RDC.
Ce projet vise à contribuer à l'autonomisation socio-économique des femmes qui font le commerce transfrontalier entre la RDC et le Rwanda. Cet objectif sera atteint en améliorant leur environnement de travail et en renforçant aussi bien leurs revenus que leur bien-être social et économique. Pour ce faire, le projet repose sur l'amélioration du cadre juridique et institutionnel, l'accès des services d'aide juridique, l'élargissement de l'accès aux services relatifs à la santé et aux droits sexuels et reproductifs et le renforcement de leur capacité entrepreneuriale et financière. Il cible les femmes impliquées dans le commerce transfrontalier informel et leurs maris ainsi que les autres acteurs publics et privés qui interviennent d’une façon ou d’une autre dans le flux commercial aux postes frontaliers de Goma/Rubavu et et Bukavu/Rusizi.
Gallérie photo de la conférence
iPeace établie en Belgique pour un plaidoyer stratégique auprès des institutions de l'Union Européenne
C'est le 27 mai 2019 que les Statuts d'Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace-Belgium) ont été publiés dans Le Moniteur Belge pour sceller la constitution de notre organisation soeur comme association sans but lucratif de droit belge.
Cette organisation a pour but de contribuer à une paix durable dans la région des Grands Lacs à travers l'éducation aux droits humains et à la bonne gouvernance. iPeace-Belgium rejoint ainsi la Stichting Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights basée aux Pays Bas comme des organisations d'appui en Europe aux projets que les bureaux nationaux d'iPeace-Burundi, iPeace-RDC et iPeace-Rwanda abattent au quotidien. Basée dans la capitale de l'Union Européenne, iPeace-Belgium est le bras stratégique de la grande famille iPeace pour mener ses activités de plaidoyer auprès des preneurs des décisions au niveau européen pour un impact durable et rapide.
Le travail en synergie de ces organisations va, à n’en point douter, impacter de façon durable la vie des hommes, femmes, enfants, jeunes et vieux de la région des grands lacs longtemps meurtrie par des conflits armés cycliques, des violations récurrentes des droits fondamentaux et la faiblesse avérée des institutions étatiques dans certains pays.
Plus de détails dans nos prochaines lignes.
In seven days, 90 students and lecturers from 30 Law Schools based in Burundi, DR Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were trained on ‘The Issue of Child-Soldiers in the Great Lakes Region: What Repressive Measures?’ on 9-15 December 2018 in Kigali. This training was organized by Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace), an organization that strives for sustainable peace in the African Great Lakes Region through human rights and good governance education, in partnership with its Geneva-based partner the Comité pour le Concours Grands Lacs (CCGL) with the aim to empower university youth and their lecturers with knowledge and skills in international humanitarian law and human rights.
In fact, it should be reminded that since 1990s the African Great Lakes Region is experiencing grave violations of Human Rights (HR) and recurrent disrespect of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL). These violations peaked to the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, innumerable cases of rape and other hateful crimes in the DRC and Burundi, and massive child conscription in Lord Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda without overlooking the bloody post-electoral crisis in Kenya in 2008. While it is worth praising the efforts done by the international community in preventing and punishing these crimes, it is obvious that the principal responsibility in this matter lies on the shoulders of the States where these crimes are committed. In terms of repression, this responsibility involves the enactment of adequate laws, but above all the availability of competent and well-trained judicial personnel. Yet most of universities in the Great Lakes Region do not provide relevant curriculum to address this issue. Only a handful of universities offer some hours for IHL and/or HR law courses. Often students and their lecturers do not have enough time to carry out extensive research or to discuss cases involving violations similar to what happens in the region. As the previous editions, the 6th edition of the Great Lakes regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights intended to bridge this gap.
The activities of the training were threefold. First students were involved in a 3-month intensive research on questions raised by the fictional case. This year’s case was about post-electoral crisis that degenerated into a civil war against the background of constitutional term manipulations by Mrs. Diogo Magni, president of the fictitious Republic of Zamaland. During the civil war both the army and rebel groups were accused of recruiting under-age persons to face war casualties as well as attacking civilians and other protected facilities such as hospitals, places of worship, etc. Students’ task was to understand and analyse the case to qualify these violations in order to establish responsibilities and to suggest the best applicable legal instruments.
Secondly, students were involved in a moot court competition where teams representing each of the universities faced two others successively as the prosecution team and the defence team. The bench was composed of experts – mainly university professors and practitioners - in IHL and/or Human Rights. The aim of the moot court competition was to strengthen students oral and pleading skills to prepare them to their future lawyering profession. The moot court competition was conducted in two tracks. The English track comprised University of Nairobi, Moi University, Kenyatta University, Strathmore University from Kenya; Makerere University, Bishop Stuart University, Kampala International University, and Nkumba University from Uganda; University of Dar-es-salaam, Muslim University of Morogoro, Mzumbe University, and Ruaha Catholic University from Tanzania; and University of Rwanda and University of Kigali from Rwanda. The French track featured Université de Kinshasa, Université de Mbujimayi, Université de Kindu, Université de Kisangani, Université Mariste du Congo, Université Officielle de Bukavu, Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs and Université de Goma from DR Congo, as well as Université du Burundi, Université du Lac Tanganyika, Université Lumiere de Bujumbura (Kinindo Campus), Université Lumiere de Bujumbura (Mutanga Campus), and Université de Ngozi from Burundi.
Moi University won the English track after a fierce final against the University of Rwanda. On the other hand, Université de Goma won the French track vis-à-vis the Université de Kinshasa.
Thirdly, participants attended various workshops and panel discussions addressing topical issues related to international humanitarian law and human rights. One of the biggest events this year was the international conference organized on 10 December 2018 in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. About 160 researchers, students, policy-makers, CSO representatives and practitioners discussed the implementation of this important instrument 70 years after its adoption in Paris in 1948.
Overall, the activities were organized in a way that allows students to interact as much as possible to learn about others coming from different countries. In addition to networking activities, all participants visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial as a way to understand the consequences of a heinous crime such as genocide. As fostering social cohesion is one of the pillars of this training, participants joined the Great Lakes Network that currently gathers 357 alumni of the programme composed of students, lecturers and international experts who have participated in in any of the editions of the Great Lakes Regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights since 2013.
Left to right: Mr. Paulin Muhozi (Country Director of iPeace - Rwanda), Mr. Chris Mburu (Senior Human Rights Offiecr - OHCHR), Dr. Irinel Cocos (Chief of Party - USAID-DIU), Dr. Aimé Karimunda (President - Court of Appeal), Mrs. Madeleine Nirere (Chairperson - National Human Rights Commission) and Mr. Eugene Anangwe (Moderator) during one of the panels.
The 6th edition was supported by the German Cooperation (GIZ Rights-Based Program), the République et Canton de Genève, Commune Plan-les-Ouates, USAID, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Société Quebecoise de Droit International, International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The 7th edition will take place on 8-14 December 2019.
Rwanda is known internationally for its cleanliness and its strong stance against using plastic bags. In 2008, Rwanda enacted a law banning the importation, production, use, and sale of plastic bags. Rwanda’s audacious ban, however harsh it may be, seems to have been effective. Numerous international environmental agencies have praised the prohibition for helping clean up the streets of the country, especially Kigali.
Rwanda aims to be the first country globally to eliminate all plastic waste. Rwanda’s push for sustainability is driven by its ambitious goal of becoming a middle-income country by 2020. Recently, the Ministry of Environment has tabled a draft law which seeks to ban single-use plastics in Rwanda to cabinet. The plastics that will be affected by the new law include some plastic bags, which were not affected by the 2008 legislation along with plastic straws, utensils, plates, and disposable cups. Plastic bottles could also fall victim of the proposed law, according to officials. If Rwanda introduces this new law against single-use plastics, it will be the second country in Africa, after Seychelles to restrict the use of single-use plastics. Aligning with the United Nations Environment Programme which pushes for "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Countries all over the world struggle with the disposal of plastic waste as most plastics are made from fossil fuels like crude oil, which contribute to climate change and take over 450 years to break down. International Environmental law has developed in response to emerging awareness of and concern over issues like waste disposal that impact the entire world. Yet many governments, especially those in the developing world, still lack the funds to create jobs in sanitation to clean up waste, recycle, and deal with the influx of plastic waste. The introduction of a draft law against single-use plastics will go a long way in eliminating waste and cementing Rwanda's "deliberate push" to preserve the environment, said Faustin Munyazikwiye, Deputy Director General of Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA). Which showcases how the Rwandan Government is encouraging policies that minimize environmental impacts and focus on long-term sustainability.
Moreover, these proposals are in line with the Rwandan constitution which states that "every citizen is entitled to a healthy and satisfying environment." The Constitution also outlines each citizen's responsibility to "protect, safeguard and promote the environment". Plastic pollution is a big threat to world waters and marine life, as well as negatively impacting the food chain, polluting the surrounding environment, and impacting public health. According to the Environment Minister, Dr. Vincent Biruta: “Single use plastics are damaging our rivers, wetlands, and farmlands. They also pose a threat to our health. Like all rubbish, plastic waste blocks drains and waterways”. It’s clear that plastic waste has become an environmental catastrophe that we can no longer ignore. Rwanda’s progressive push for harsher restrictions regarding the use, importation, and production of single-use plastic is thus indispensable. There have been remarkable environmental benefits since Rwanda prohibited polythene bags over a decade ago. Banning single-use plastics will therefore be another step forward in the fight against climate change, showcasing to the world that a pro-environment stance by governments is feasible.
Traditional African methods of conflict resolution exist within a particular cultural context and have been practiced for extended periods of time, evolving within African societies, rather than being a product of external importation. Their role in seeking peaceful solutions to local disputes is unquestionable. Traditional methodologies are built around concepts of mediation, restitution, conciliation, restoration, and compensation. They are rooted in the economic environment, socio-political, cultural and historical contexts of societies allowing them to be responsive to local realities. The Rwandan Abunzi reconciliation system is one of the many successful examples of home-grown solutions to dispute mediation and conflict resolution that is based off of traditional concepts of justice.
The word ‘Abunzi’ can be translated into ‘those who reconcile’ or ‘those who bring together’ (from the verb kunga). Traditionally, Abunzi were men known within their communities known for their integrity as mediators and were asked to intervene in the event of conflict arising. To this day, Abunzi committees draw off of these traditional conciliation practices and play a central role in settling local conflicts in Rwanda. Currently, the submission of disputes to ‘Abunzi’ committees is a mandatory preliminary precedure used for resolving a large number of disputes prior to cases being referred to the formal court system. In fact, parties to a civil dispute are required to submit that dispute involving matters whose monetary value does not exceed amount of money fixed by law prior to the filing of a case with the court of first instance, i.e. the Primary Court. Firmly established throughout the country there are presently 2,564 mediation committees with over 30,000 practicing ‘Abunzi’ in operation. Reflecting the Rwandan government’s commitment to facilitating access to justice for its citizens, the conciliation process through ‘Abunzi’ is free, accessible and participatory.
The ‘Abunzi’ are chosen on the basis of their integrity and mandated by the state to handle local cases within a certain monetary value. Article 141 of the 2003 Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda revised in 2015 sets up the ’Abunzi’ committees with the responsibility of conciliating parties in conflict with the aim of consolidating national unity and peaceful coexistence among Rwandans. The ‘Abunzi’ committees, which exist in every cell and sector, are elected by their community in theaim of allowing for local ownership that promotes community participation. The ‘Abunzi’ are a clear example of the synergies between the state and local grassroots methods of conflict resolution. These conciliation committees are creating space for ordinary citizens to participate in public processes, such as justice delivery and governance reform. Rwanda’s decentralized approach to justice is not only accessible, but also affordable. Essentially opening up democratic spaces for various actors to exercise their agency in a constructive manner. Responding to the overburdened modern court system in Rwanda, the ‘Abunzi’ system of conciliation has helped to address the question of access to justice by ordinary Rwandans, who might not be able to afford to participate in the formal litigation justice environment.
iPeace maintains a strong relationship with local ‘Abunzi’ and encourages its clients to seek peaceful conflict resolution through the processes before ‘Abunzi’. The majority of our cases that reach local ’Abunzi’ committees are resolved without further action having to be taken within the formal court system. These traditional institutions have complemented the state, which is oftentimes too overwhelmed and under-resourced to be able to offer effective justice in a timely manner. The ‘Abunzi’ conciliation restorative approach helps people to address their conflicts without resorting to litigation and other retributive approaches.
Traditional conflict resolution institutions often aim for the restoration of broken relationships. The punishment of perpetrators is not their priority. The law N° 37/2016 of 08/09/2016 determining organisation, jurisdiction, competence and functioning of ‘Abunzi’ committee actually prohibits ‘Abunzi’ giving punitive sentences. Hearings gain compliance mostly because of a combination of conciliation and state-backed threats, as Abunzi can request the services of the police when witnesses and parties fail to cooperate with the conciliation.
Besides resolving the conflict, a vital aspect of the traditional mechanisms of conflict resolution in African societies is their capacity to involve members of the public and to build a sense of community through engaging and participative methodologies to resolve disputes. Usually the resolution of conflict by traditional institutions is done in the presence of family, community or tribe members, allowing for the construction and restoration of the notion of belonging and communality. Abunzi committee sessions are open to everyone, including the family members of the disputants and members of the public. When compared with the retributive system of the modern courts, the ‘Abunzi’ system showcases the values and principles of decentralisation of power, communal participation and consensus-based decision making.
Traditional institutions of conflict resolution are part of the evolving modern civilisation and should no longer be perceived as simply isolated rituals occurring in remote rural villages and townships. Traditional institutions have become a part of the modern post-conflict state, hence the notion of ‘hybrid’ political orders. African mechanisms for conflict resolution are unique, context-specific, and responsive to the justice needs of societies. As Africa continues to develop and strengthen its political institutions, attention ought to be drawn to ensure that these traditional methodologies are preserved and incorporated into modern governance systems. The ‘Abunzi’ conciliation system is a distinct example of the benefits of merging traditional context-specific, cultural methodologies in order to address modern day issues that the state and its citizens face. Therefore, it is important not only to give due recognition to such institutions but also help to facilitate increased collaboration between the traditional and modern institutions of conflict resolution throughout the continent.
Access to justice is critical to ensuring that people are able to fully understand their rights and how to protect them as citizens under Rwandan and International Law. Many people, especially those living in rural areas, are impoverished and unaware of their human rights. As a consequence, they are unable to afford legal services whereby they can be advised of their rights and the systems that are in place to protect them. Thus, iPeace’s Gateway to Justice (G2J) Project core objective is to fill this gap.
In the five districts iPeace works, the most common types of disputes are land related disputes which typically involve inheritance (izungura), gifts of land (umunani), informal marriage unions and land transactions. According to the World Bank, land related disputes are prevalent and increasing in Rwanda. As land pressures in Rwanda are extremely high due to the country’s high population density, land-related conflicts comprise 70-90% of disputes being heard by the courts.
The Rwandan government has embarked on a wide-range of reforms that aim to quickly and fundamentally change the ownership, use, and administration of land within Rwanda. These reforms focus on formally documenting land ownership, which brings latent, competing claims to the forefront. Albeit, at the same time these positive legal reforms are providing stronger rights for women, orphans, and other marginalised groups within the country.
Despite significant land tenure reform programs, many Rwandans have limited understanding of their rights and how those rights can be exercised and enforced. According to a USAID commissioned report, the lack of understanding is particularly relevant to the women that these legal reforms seek to ultimately protect, resulting in perceptions of bias, fear of community mistreatment, and groups not readily availing themselves of local services. Complex family relationships further complicate inheritance and family land allocation, reducing already modest parcels to very small landholdings. In addition, the rapid rate of land formalization, a lack of clarity and information regarding land rights, incomplete knowledge for exercising those rights, and inaccessible or ineffective land dispute resolution mechanisms oftentimes exacerbates these tensions.
This week for example, the G2J team handled a case of a woman whose husband passed away, and thereafter a son of the deceased claims to have been given the land left by the deceased through a will. The surviving wife’s name was not included in the will. He has consequently chased the surviving spouse from the family land and claims ownership rights over it. Her case is currently being handled by our team. Under Rwandan law, the surviving spouse has the right to inherit her deceased husband’s land, whether there is a will or not. This is just one of seven new cases that iPeace has received regarding land disputes this week.
In order to attend to these types of cases, iPeace’s outreach team has been in the field working with community leaders and members to provide a safe space to discuss land related issues; allowing participants to break down barriers through exchange and discussion of common interests. These dialogues help increase the understanding of land issues that individuals and communities face, whilst at the same time encouraging a search for community-driven solutions. In turn, these discussions provide important insights about land-related issues that can inform broader policy debate, providing the government information to make more informed and more responsive land policies.
iPeace values connecting with local communities and strengthening its relationship with community partners and members; its team is looking forward to expanding its reach and increasing the services it provides in a near future.
On 11-16 December 2017, the 5th edition of the Great Lakes Regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights took place in Kigali. This time, 72 students and lecturers from 24 universities were empowered with knowledge and skills in relation with rules applicable in armed conflicts, and human rights. Among the participating universities, 10 were from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It is the first time since 2013 that English speaking countries have been accepted to join this regional Programme which started focusing on Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda.
Students’ research culminated with the production of two memorials, per team, containing arguments supported by relevant provisions of international instruments and case-law. Memorials addressed alternatively and separately the position of the prosecutor indicting the army general, operations commander, and that of the defense lawyer in accordance with the laws and procedures governing the International Criminal Court.The activities of this edition were organized around the theme “Maintaining the Rule of Law in Armed Conflict Period: What protection for Children in the Great Lakes Region?”.
As usual, before coming for a one-week intensive training programme in Kigali, participants spent 3 months researching on the legal qualification of facts involved in a fictitious case depicting various violations of international humanitarian law and human rights. This year’s case was built on a scenario of post-electoral crisis that degenerated to a rebellion led by an opposition leader, who not only lost the elections but also refused to recognize the polls’ results. This rebellion was bloodily repressed by the governmental army with disastrous humanitarian consequences on civilians, including women and children.
In Kigali, participants enriched their knowledge by attending workshops facilitated by renowned experts in the fields of international humanitarian law and human rights. Among these workshops, it is worth mentioning two because of both their technicity and their topicality. The first, facilitated by Dr. Raphael van Steenberghe, professor of international law at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, aimed at helping participants know and understand recent developments regarding the complementarity between international humanitarian law and human rights. The second related to the identification of lex specialis and how it is articulated with other rules governing armed conflicts was facilitated by Dr. Aurélie Tardieu, lecturer at Université de Caen in France. Moreover, participants attended a conference on how international humanitarian law and human rights law complement each other in protecting children in armed conflict period.
To connect theory to practice, students participated in a moot court competition organized in two tracks. The Francophone track, competed by Congolese and Burundian universities, was won by Université de Kinshasa (from DR Congo) after facing in final another Congolese university, Universté de Goma. On the side of the English track, universities from Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda faced each other. Moi University won the competition after a fierce pleading against Kampala International University from Uganda in the final.
The bench of Judges in preliminary rounds and in the grand final was composed of people with sound expertise in international law from iPeace partner universities and organizations based in Belgium, Cameroon, DR Congo, France, Netherlands, Rwanda, Switzerland, and Tchad.
Both finals took place in the main courtroom of the Supreme Court of Rwanda in the presence of the Chief Justice, prof. Sam Rugege, who also delivered closing remarks after he handed awards to best female pleaders on both sides. It was the first time that special prizes such as best overall pleader and best female pleader were introduced in the Great Lakes regional moot court competition. In his speech, Chief Justice acknowledged the pertinence of this programme not only in shaping the knowledge and skills or the region’s future lawyers and judges in international humanitarian law and human rights but also in promoting peaceful coexistence.
This edition was supported by the Swiss federal department of foreign affairs, German Cooperation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Commune Plan-les Ouates, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Association québécoise de droit international. Since 2013, 251 the people have benefited from this programme and are now members of the active Great Lakes Network, which regroups academics and practitioners interested in international humanitarian law and human rights in the Great Lakes region. The next edition will take place in Kigali on 9-16 December 2018.
In the framework of its Gateway to Justice (G2J) Project, iPeace organized on Tuesday 26 September 2017 at Mater Boni Concilii Hotel (Huye) a workshop to empower 30 women including members of National Women Council from Gisagara, Huye, Nyamagabe, Nyanza, and Nyaruguru districts. The purpose of the workshop was to equip participants with adequate legal knowledge and skills to address family disputes, child protection and land issues, which appeared to be the top three issues that Rwandans face in the districts covered by G2J Project.
Opening this workshop, Mr. Kagabo Joseph representing the Mayor of Huye District, commended iPeace's legal aid to Huye people. Mr. Kagabo said that access to justice is fundamental for the protection of citizens' rights. That is why it is one of the top items on the agenda of Huye District. He requested the participants to take advantage of the training provided by iPeace's experts and to use the knowledge and skills they receive in preventing disputes not only in their own families but also in their communities. Closing his remark, Mr. Kagabo promised that the district will continue to work closely with iPeace to strengthen access to justice and good governance.
This one-day workshop was organized in three parts. The first part facilitated by Mr. Yves Sezirahiga consisted of taking participants through the provisions of the new Family Law of Rwanda. In fact, since August 2016, Rwanda has got a new law governing family and persons. This law abrogated that of 1988. During his intervention, Mr. Sezirahiga highlighted the new changes brought by the new law, such as the timeframe for birth registration, requirements and procedure to change someone's names, rights and obligations of spouses, conditions and procedure for divorce, etc.
The fourth edition of the Great Lakes Regional Training Programme in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights held in Kigali brought together a total of 30 students and 15 lecturers from 15 public and private universities from Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda. They participated in a number of activities including an intensive research, a training seminar, two workshops and a moot court competition. This project lasted twelve months, but the training part for this edition lasted from 12 to 17 December 2016.
The training began with an intensive research on a fictitious case narrating various violations of the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights inspired by the local realities experienced in the region since the 1990s. At the end of this research, the two students representing each participating university submitted two briefs (memorials) defending in turn the position of the prosecutor and that of the defendant of a military commander prosecuted for having committed abuses during an internationalized armed conflict. In addition, all participants attended an interactive seminar on sexual violence in armed conflict led by an ICRC-Geneva expert, as well as two workshops on pleading techniques and the prominent aspects of the fictional case.
Throughout the training activities, there was also a moot court competition between the participating universities. Experts from Belgium, Burundi, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, the Netherlands, Switzerland, DR Congo and Rwanda sat as judges and evaluators of the above-mentioned briefs. This year, Mrs. Fatoumata Diarra Dembélé, former Vice-President of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a former judge at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), presided the jury of the moot court grand finale that took place in the Supreme Court of Rwanda.
This fourth edition was made possible thanks to the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (DDC-Geneva and DDC Kigali Regional Office), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the City of Geneva, Stichting Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (SIPHR – the Netherlands), the Utrecht University (Netherlands), the Société Québécoise de Droit International, the Pro Victimis Foundation and the Kigali Independent University (ULK). It is also worth noting the contribution of the Rwandan government through the availing of the courtroom of the Supreme Court where the final of the moot court competition was held.
The Great Lakes Regional Training Program in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights is an annual project co-organized since 2013 by Initiatives for Peace and Human Rights (iPeace) in partnership with the Swiss non-governmental organization, the Comité pour le Concours Grands Lacs (CCGL) for law students and lecturers from public and private universities from Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda to strengthen their knowledge in international humanitarian law (rules and principles applicable in period of armed conflicts) and human rights. This project also aims to enhance peaceful coexistence among young people in these countries by offering them a unique opportunity to learn and work together.
Since 2013, 114 students and 57 lecturers from public and private universities in these three countries have benefited from this continuous training which not only impacts the academic and professional aspirations of the participants towards international humanitarian law and human rights but also on the peaceful coexistence of young people in the region.
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