Baudouin Kipaka Basilimu : Judge and human rights defender in DRC

Baudouin Kipaka basilimuAEDH has been supporting the human rights organisation Homme Arche d’Alliance since 2008. The South Kivu-based organisation is a partner in the DECLIK initiative, supported by the European Union. Baudoun Kipaka Basilimu, coordinator of Homme Arche d’Alliance, judge and human rights defender, tells us what is behind his commitment to the cause.

You are a magistrate by profession. How do you reconcile your activism and your professional commitments?

I have been actively involved in human rights as a magistrate for years, having benefitted from a number of related training sessions in Europe and in DRC over the last 17 years, and having obtained a Masters in Human Rights in 2010.

Having witnessed serious and widespread human rights abuses in my country, in 1991 I decided to join the fight against impunity within the courts in DRC, despite their many shortcomings and the poor working conditions involved.

I consider my status as a “magistrate and human rights activist” to be consistent with the first article of the 1998 UN Declaration, which recognises every person’s right to get involved in the fight for human rights, including government agents. On top of that, the Congolese constitution says that everyone, including magistrates, has the right to free association, and that judicial powers guarantee the respect of rights and liberties.

At first, my colleagues and my hierarchy had trouble with the fact that I wore these two hats. They claimed that I could not reconcile my activism with my work. But over the course of my career, I worked to change the minds of those I was working with. Today, the majority of magistrates understand that the two things are not incompatible, and that on the contrary it is the mission of every magistrate to defend human rights, within and outside the profession.

Arche d’Alliance is a partner of AEDH in the DECLIK project. What is its role in this project?

Arche d’Alliance is one of AEDH’s five partners in the DECLIK project. Its role is complementary to that played by the other partner organisations. The project aims to improve the human rights situation in the Kivu provinces of DRC, a region where the socio-economic context is difficult and a 20-year armed conflict has brought about major violations of human rights. Arche d’Alliance is particularly engaged in the fight against impunity and in advocacy efforts in Fizi and Uvira territories, South Kivu province.

The DECLIK project will end in October 2015. What can you say about it so far?

There has been good progress so far: we are attaining the objectives that we set for ourselves. The DECLIK project has allowed us to document human rights violations, educate people about their rights, sensitise the community and carry out advocacy activities. It has also allowed us to provide legal aid to the victims of torture, a very difficult activity as the judicial processes involved are often very long in this kind of case.

You will be in Europe at the end of June for advocacy activities. What do you expect from this trip?

I will be going with my colleague Immaculée from the organisation PAIF based in Goma to represent all the organisations involved in the DECLIK project, with the assistance of AEDH. We will be presenting a report that we have put together on prison conditions in the east of the Congo to different institutions, such as the European Union, the French Foreign Ministry, and the International Organisation of French speaking countries. We hope that our interlocutors will use their influence to push the Congolese authorities to respect their commitments and the rights of detainees.

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