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Before asking specific questions about justice mechanisms, the survey asked respondents what, in their opinion, is the meaning of justice. Establishing the truth (51%), being just or fair (48%), and applying the law (49%) were cited most frequently and almost equally. These responses suggest that justice is primarily viewed in relation to judicial mechanisms and the rule of law. This may be viewed as paradoxical given the absence of fully functioning justice institutions in eastern Congo and shows an appetite for such institutions. Support for applying the law drew the highest support in Ituri, where the stabilization of conflict has allowed for efforts to reform the judicial sector there at a faster pace than elsewhere in eastern DRC. The results of the survey on this point lend support to the positive impact that international efforts at judicial sector reform can have in increasing the Congolese population’s faith in the rule of law.

Punishment itself is perceived as constituting justice for more respondents (21%) than trials are (14%). This insistence on punishment underlines an understanding of justice as being predominantly retributive. This was confirmed by the fact that apologies and forgiveness were only mentioned by a few (3%).

As for obtaining compensation for the victims, it was perceived as constituting justice by only 8 percent of the respondents. This is in contrast to the number of respondents (17%) that would like war criminals to compensate victims (see attitudes towards war criminals). Again, this low correlation of compensation constituting justice could be a reflection that thus far, the Congolese justice system has been ineffective at concluding trials, attributing guilt, and ordering compensation.

Table 25: Definition of justice

Table 25 - Definition of justice

The survey then asked respondents whether it is possible to achieve justice and what means should be used to achieve it. Most respondents were optimistic and believed justice can indeed be achieved (80%). As for the means to achieve justice, consistent with their perception of justice as being predominantly retributive, over half the respondents mentioned the national court system (51%), a quarter referred to the ICC (26%), and a fifth to military courts (20%). Non-adjudicatory alternatives mentioned included a truth mechanism (20%), and conflict-resolution projects initiated by NGOs and religious groups (14%). Traditional or customary mechanisms were mentioned by 15 percent of respondents. Amnesty and forgiveness were cited by only 7 percent of respondents, reflecting respondents’ prevalent perception of justice as official mechanisms that apply the law and establish the truth in an equitable manner. Support for the national court system and the ICC as means to achieve justice was highest in Ituri, where efforts to reform the judicial sector and ICC investigations are further advanced than in North and South Kivu.

Table 26: Means for justice

Table 26 - Means for justice

Most respondents favored peace with trials (62%) over peace with amnesty (38%). This confirms the support for judicial accountability and retribution highlighted by other parts of the survey. The survey then asked respondents to choose between various trial options: 45 percent chose national trials, 40 percent chose international trials in DRC, 7 percent chose international trials abroad, and only 8 percent chose no trials at all.

Most significantly, the results suggest that 85 percent of respondents wanted trials held in DRC, whether they are national (45%) or internationalized trials in the DRC (40%). Furthermore, respondents expressed a preference for trials with international oversight, whether internationalized trials in DRC (40%) or international trials abroad (7%). Considering the option of national trials, most respondents (82%) said the international community should help the domestic courts.

Table 27: Trial options

Table 27 - Trial options