Press release

Democratic Republic of Congo: Judicial Independence Under Threat

Proposed reforms would impede prosecutions of public officials suspected of corruption and embezzlement.

In response to the introduction of draft amendments in the parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that could weaken the independence of the judiciary, Freedom House issued the following statement: 

“Efforts by Common Front for Congo members of Parliament to limit the power of the judiciary to determine which cases it can prosecute are deeply concerning,” said Jon Temin, director of Africa programs at Freedom House. “The amendments, if adopted, would give the Ministry of Justice broad authority to interfere in ongoing legal processes, in violation of the DRC constitution and international jurisprudence standards. Among other concerns, these reforms would significantly impede efforts by the judiciary to hold public officials accountable in suspected cases of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.”   

Background:

The Common Front for Change coalition, which holds a parliamentary majority and is aligned with former president Joseph Kabila, has submitted to the Congolese parliament controversial amendments to three bills governing the judicial system. If adopted, the amendments would remove the magistrates in charge of prosecutions from the judiciary, and place them under the authority of the Minister of Justice.

The effort by the Common Front for Change has been met with broad resistance at home and abroad, including from the Congolese Magistrates’ Union, the National Episcopal Conference, a significant number of civil society organizations across the country, and the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2020.