Elusive Justice for Victims of the Abdoulay Yerodia International Crimes of August 1998 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In order to access justice, victims of human rights abuses must first find a jurisdiction that is willing to hear their case. In the Abdoulay Yerodia Ndombasi (Yerodia) case in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), victims of Yerodia’s intentional crimes brought their case in Belgium because they were unable to introduce it in domestic courts. Belgium launched an international arrest warrant against Yerodia who, at the time of accusation by Belgium, was Foreign Minister of the DRC. This has led to a dispute between the DRC and Belgium before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The DRC accused Belgium of violating the diplomatic immunity of its Foreign Minister. However, the international crimes in question were committed before Yerodia became Foreign Minister of the DRC and the ICJ rendered its decision in his case after he had ceased to hold that position. Despite this, the ICJ ruled in favor of Yerodia's diplomatic immunity and consequently this decision has only protected him from criminal liability. This paper examines first the historical background of the discrimination of Yerodia’s victims to support the claim that they cannot access justice in the DRC. It also argues that the ICJ’s decision in this case has only contributed to shielding Yerodia from justice rather than preserving smooth operation of the DRC’s diplomatic activities abroad. Finally, this paper suggests that the ICJ’sdecision in this case has closed the doors to victims in their endeavors to access justice.
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