On Oct. 11, French authorities detained indicted war criminal Callixte Mbarushimana, the head of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu militia group operating in the eastern Congo. He was arrested in Paris on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This arrest represents one of the International Criminal Court’s first big steps forward from mere finger wagging to real justice for human rights violators. Assessments of the arrest’s effectiveness in demobilizing the FDLR, however, are mixed. Some like Jason Stearns, a Congo blogger and coordinator of the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Dominican Republic of Congo, suggest that it may restrict the FDLR’s essential expatriate funding network, but will have little impact on the rebel group’s command structure.

Mbarushimana’s arrest dovetails nicely with other developments in international criminal legal approaches to the conflict in the DRC. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report in early October, detailing regional involvement in human rights abuses in the DRC between 1993 and 2003.

International media coverage of the report primarily focused on an earlier, leaked version, which accused Rwanda of perpetrating genocide against Hutu refugees in the DRC’s eastern Kivu provinces during the late 1990s. The report later diluted its accusations, describing Rwanda’s attacks on Congolese civilians as “systematic and widespread” yet lacking the “requisite intent” for the genocide classification.

While politically significant, the Rwanda findings were not particularly groundbreaking. Similar reports about Rwanda’s human rights abuses have been surfacing since the start of Rwanda’s military operations in the Kivus following the 1994 genocide.

The report is notable, however, for the justice framework it provides for accountability for human rights abuses in the DRC. Taking a leaf from the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the report recommends the creation of a “hybrid” court, which would combine both international and domestic judicial aspects. Hybrid courts, which theoretically help handle capacity and institutional legitimacy issues, are a nascent norm in international justice circles. The Congolese government has encouragingly indicated its interest in working with the international community to establish similar justice systems in the future.

The conflict in the DRC is in large part a result of the DRC’s failure of governance in the eastern provinces. A hybrid justice system, or similar approach to increase accountability, will create the institutions necessary to erode the culture of impunity in the Kivu regions.

Such an institution is necessary, but not sufficient, to end the conflict in the DRC. Indeed, the popular dialogue surrounding the conflict in the DRC contains many necessary, but not sufficient policy proposals for peace. A new framework, which addresses the underlying political, economic, cultural, and security-related roots of the conflict, is essential to an effective conflict resolution process in the DRC.

Human rights advocacy organizations have focused almost exclusively on the impact of mineral extraction on violence in the Kivu provinces. (Full disclosure: This author is a member of the national managing committee for STAND, one such organization.) While mineral extraction may serve as a valuable source of revenue for violent organizations in the DRC, increased legitimization of the Central African minerals trade will have little short-term impact on conflict dynamics. Central African governments have certainly taken steps to improve the transparency of the regional minerals trade, and the United States recently passed legislation requiring electronics companies to report the origins of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from the DRC.

However, as with the hybrid justice approach, the certification scheme advocated by human rights organizations only addresses a particular subset of the policy reforms necessary for peace in the DRC. Trade certification schemes and justice and accountability frameworks must work in conjunction with other initiatives such as security sector reform and civil society engagement in all three aforementioned initiatives. Only a combination will build the institutions necessary to create stability and civilian security in eastern DRC.

Georgetown, as a research university and center of policy advisement, can play an active role in these initiatives. The university’s presence in Washington, D.C., as well as the various governance, conflict resolution and humanitarian action programs affiliated with the School of Foreign Service, leave the university in position to advise the process of civil society engagement and institution building in the eastern DRC. This approach would not be without its challenges, but the university would do well to consider such opportunities to make a positive impact on the conflict resolution process in the DRC.

Daniel Solomon is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.

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