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The Meaning of Justice and the Justice Sector

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As outlined above, the national court system is frequently proposed as the avenue to hold accountable those responsible for the violence committed during the conflicts. Trials in CAR by a national court were the preferred trial option. A series of further questions was designed to assess respondents’ perception of the national judicial system. As in northern Uganda, DRC, Rwanda, and Cambodia, respondents in CAR defined justice in broad terms. When asked about the meaning of justice, they most frequently mentioned the strict application of the law (51%), the trial of those who committed wrong (31%), being just or fair (26%), and knowing who is right and who is wrong (17%).

As the discussion on local conflict-resolution showed, few respondents interact with the national judicial system. Rather, most local conflicts are resolved by families themselves, village chiefs, or religious leaders. However, as many as 26 percent said they had had some sort of contact with the formal judicial system over the course of their lives. The type of contact was not discussed. When asked about their knowledge and opinion of the national judicial system, 37 percent of respondents reported having a good or very good knowledge of the system, and 34% judged its quality to be good or very good. Inversely, 33 percent judged their knowledge to be poor or very poor, and 36 percent judged the quality of the judicial system to be bad or very bad. When probed further about their opinion, 46 percent of the respondents felt that the national judicial system was good and doing its job. However, 39 percent said it was corrupted, 29 percent said justice is only for the rich because it is unfair to the poor, 25 percent said the judges and lawyers were not doing their jobs, and 9 percent said criminals remain unpunished. As many as 32 percent of respondents reported knowing directly of unfair imprisonment, and 28 percent reported knowing of corrupt lawyers and/or judges.  

Figure 22: Knowledge and perception of the national judicial system