Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo - Court started on Tuesday afternoon, a day-and-a-half late. The three-day mobile court hearings focused on sexual violence cases began with the first defendant entering barefoot and wearing dirty trousers and a woman's ruffled top.
Accused of raping his eight-year-old neighbour, the man was handed a recommended sentence of 20 years in prison and a 100,000-franc fine (about $102) after about 10 minutes of questioning. The verdict was read in French, a language the defendant does not speak. In the last case of the day, the recommended sentence was a fine of $6,000, a sum no defendant is likely to be able to pay in a country where the per capita in 2015 was $410. WATCH: Mobile courts like this one work within the Congolese justice system to bring justice to isolated areas. Bunia is a small city in the Ituri region of Orientale Province in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). There are two main hotels, few paved roads and lots of wooden shacks. The streets are dusty; electricity is sporadic.
In the evenings, the skies fill with the whir of United Nations helicopters. Just outside the city, a number of, in which killings, rapes and kidnappings are common. Justice to isolated areas Places like Bunia often employ mobile courts to help ease caseloads in more urban areas. Often utilised for hearings of sexual violence cases, the courts are paid for by NGOs, including the national women's organisation, which serves victims of sexual violence. Despite providing the service in remote areas where often no other justice system is available, the mobile courts are far from perfect. Numerous logistical and infrastructure hurdles weaken their authority and influence.
In court, the perpetrators are condemned, explains SOFEPADI president, Julienne Lusenge, 'but they never pay for reparation'. The victims and their families often do not attend hearings, defence lawyer Godhi Naguy explains, because they see the procedure as useless. In 2014, 140 of the 407 women seeking treatment at the SOFEPADI Bunia centre went to court, according to Carine Novi, who is in charge of communication and fundraising for the organisation. Of those, 80 percent received a judgment. Grace was one of those helped. A chubby 16-year-old with braided hair, she looked away as she told her story to Al Jazeera. Her two-year-old daughter sat on her lap. Grace was 14 when her father raped her.
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She kept quiet at first, but a week later she told her mother, who called the police. They also contacted SOFEPADI. The organisation helped the family with food, clothing and medical care.
They gave Grace $200 and she took the case to court. She never received any compensation, but her father was sentenced to 25 years. He was moved from a prison in Bunia to one in the capital, Kinshasa. Shortly after, however, he returned to Bunia - a free man. 'We were surprised to see him come back. We don't know if he paid or what,' she says.
'He hadn't even spent two years in jail.' In a country lacking basic infrastructure, it is difficult to gather and store forensic evidence to use during sexual assault trials [Katya Cengel/Al Jazeera] Inadequate justice system By 3pm, as testimonies were made, the judge in charge of the proceedings, who also presides over the main court of Bunia, was taking phone calls on his mobile phone. After the proceedings ended an hour later, the judge explained that they were supposed to stop work at 3pm but instead had worked beyond that and for that, they needed more money from SOFEPADI.
Download eden superhero mp3 for free full. To the United Nations Population Fund, there were 11,769 reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence in the first nine months of 2014 in five eastern provinces; 42 percent of them occurred in Orientale Province. The true number may be even higher, says Dominique Vidale-Plaza, the women's protection adviser to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO). The government has come under criticism for its response to the problem. In 2013 and 2014, during the in which Congolese government soldiers were accused of raping more than 1,000 men, women and children over a 10-day period, 39 members of the armed forces were charged with sexual violence. Only two of the accused, however, were convicted of rape. According to a 2015 Human Rights Watch, the investigation and trial 'failed to establish what exactly happened in Minova, to identify those who were responsible for the crimes, and to bring justice to the victims'.