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The survey found that accountability and justice for grave crimes are very important to most people in eastern Congo, and that people believe these concepts are linked to peace. When asked about accountability, more than four out of five respondents (85%) deemed it important to hold accountable those who committed war crimes in eastern Congo, and 82 percent believed that accountability is necessary to secure peace. When asked what crimes they thought should be made accountable, the most frequent responses were murder/killing (92%) and sexual violence (70%). These responses reflect the gravity accorded the commissions of these crimes and the clear imperative to hold accountable those who committed them. Respondents provided also a wide range of other crimes for which people must be held accountable, including burying people alive, cannibalism, and burning houses. Forced recruitment was not often mentioned: Only 6 percent of respondents mentioned forced recruitment of adults, and 22 percent mentioned forced recruitment of children (although it was the basis for the first arrest warrant by the ICC in the DRC, concerning Thomas Lubanga). Demand for accountability for displacement was more frequent in North and South Kivu than in Ituri, whereas accountability for torture was cited more often in Ituri than in the Kivus.

Table 21: Crimes and accountability

Table 21 - Crimes and accountability

Respondents identified a variety of actors they believed should be held accountable, reflecting the complex involvement of numerous sources and parties in the conflicts in eastern DRC. The most frequent answers concerned militia leaders (56%) and the militias in general (44%). In some cases, respondents specified which groups should be held accountable. Respondents mentioned the Congolese government (17%) and government forces (FARDC, 13%). The demand for the government in Kinshasa to be made accountable was particularly strong in Ituri (28%) when compared with the Kivus. Respondents also recognized the role of external actors, frequently mentioning Rwanda (36%) and Uganda (23%). The role of external actors was a particular concern for those living near these countries: in North Kivu, 42 percent of respondents wanted to see Rwanda and the Rwandan government held accountable. A few mentioned MONUC and the international community should also be held accountable (2%). Only 2 percent of respondents believed no one should be held accountable.

A number of factors may explain this high demand for accountability. First, the nature of the violence, involving different social and ethnic groups, as well as foreign troops, may account for this demand to hold “the other” accountable. Second, DRC is a country where most infrastructure remains lacking, in particular in the East: a thirst for accountability may also be a thirst for judicial infrastructure, as well as more generally for law and order, and for a normalization of social relationships.

Table 22: Who should be held accountable?

Table 22 - Who should be held accountable?

When asked who or which institutions should hold people accountable, respondents most frequently saw this as the role of the government (80%). The national judicial system was mentioned by less than a quarter of respondents (22%), illustrating a possible lack of trust in this system, as well as misunderstanding of the respective role and nature of the government and of the judiciary. The ICC was considered a relevant mechanism of accountability by almost a quarter of the respondents (24%). About one out of five respondents also saw a role for the international community (22%). Traditional justice mechanisms were cited by only a few respondents as means of holding people accountable: 6 percent would entrust this to customary/traditional leaders, and only 3 percent to religious leaders. The reliance on customary/traditional leaders to hold those responsible accountable was higher in Ituri (13%) than in the Kivus. Only 2 percent of respondents would rely on an amnesty process, reiterating their attachment to accountability.

Table 23: Who should hold them accountable?

Table 23 - Who should hold them accountable?

The survey then asked respondents what they would like to see happen to those who committed war crimes (the term “war crimes” was not explained, see Table 24). A large majority of respondents supported sanctions and punishments: 69 percent of respondents said war criminals should be punished, 34 percent said that war criminals should be put in jail, and 20 percent felt war criminals should be killed. Having those responsible confess their crimes was mentioned by only 8 percent of respondents; even fewer respondents said war criminals should be forgiven (7%) or reintegrated in the community (5%). Overall, 23 percent mentioned forgiveness and reintegration.[1]

The survey also asked respondents if they believed foot soldiers should be treated in the same way as leaders. One-third (38%) of respondents said they should be treated similarly, indicating that the vast majority of respondents believe that leaders bear greater responsibility for the commission of war crimes than foot soldiers.

Table 24: Attitudes toward war criminals

Table 24 - Attitudes toward war criminals

[1] In comparison, using a similar question in northern Uganda, we found that 42.5% of the respondents were willing to forgive LRA leaders. However, the type and origins of the conflicts differ in many respects, including the fact that in Uganda many of the perpetrators and victims come from the same social group, the Acholi. Pham PN, et al., “When the War Ends: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Peace, Justice, and Social Reconstruction in Northern Uganda,” Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley; Payson Center for International Development, Tulane University; International Center for Transitional Justice, New York (December 2007).