JUSTICE FOR SALE follows Claudine, a young and courageous human rights lawyer, in her struggle against injustice and widespread impunity in Congo. She investigates the case of Masamba, a soldier who was convicted of rape, and discovers that his trial was corrupt and unfair. He was jailed without any concrete evidence. In Claudine’s journey to obtain justice, she uncovers a system where the basic principles of law are virtually ignored. Masamba’s trial also raises questions about the financial support that the international community and NGOs offer to the Congolese judicial system. Is it creating a justice that’s for sale? And if so, who pays the price?
The filmmakers have worked in the Congo for six years. During that time they
completed two award-winning films. Fighting the Silence investigates the
consequences facing the victims of sexual violence. Weapon of War exposes
confessions of rape by rebels and military personnel. The latest film, Justice for Sale,
emerged as a natural “next step” in the progression of this unintentional series.
Justice for Sale is a very important film that needs to be told. Congo is officially in a post-conflict situation that in order to move forward needs a well functioning justice system, a judicial system that convicts perpetrators for their crimes. As long as this is not the case, more innocent people become victims and crimes against humanity will continue.
In September 2008, while completing their previous documentary Weapon of War, the filmmakers stumbled upon a surreal public hearing in a military court. Ilse recounts, “From day one we knew something extraordinary was about to happen.” During a four-day trial, ten military soldiers were on trial for rape, murder and theft. Ilse and Femke weren’t quite sure what they were witnessing but they instinctively knew as experienced documentarians to pick up their cameras and record what was unfolding around them. At the time, they had no idea what would become of this footage – they only knew that it had to be documented. The results are stunning, unbelievably real, and recorded just as they happened. While filming the court cases, they witnessed the conviction of a low ranking soldier from Congo’s National Army (FARDC). With no legal research and only circumstantial evidence (from questionable sources), Masamba was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. Yes, convicted and proven guilty with no concrete evidence.
Because the filmmakers have been working in Congo since 2006, they were aware of the poor human rights track-record. But they didn’t realise it also included the conviction of innocent people in courts of law. The filmmakers conducted continuous and extensive research on the impunity and the corrupt justice system in the Congo since early 2009. By establishing relationships with a variety of human right attorneys, activists and local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the filmmakers uncovered an abundance of crucial information about the corruption in the judicial system, quickly realizing that yet another urgent film needed to be made. They spoke about this alarming problem with Claudine, one human rights lawyer working in the Congo, who told the filmmakers that people are accused of crimes without evidence and locked up all the time while perpetrators easily buy their way out.
Over the last few years there has been much more attention given to sexual violence by local and international NGOs. As a result, rape is becoming a ‘business’ – a business because people are abusing the law on sexual violence to settle conflicts, to earn money, and to show the international community that more perpetrators are indeed convicted. Justice for sale also raises questions about the financial support that the international community and NGOs offer to the Congolese judicial system. Is it creating a justice that is for sale? And if so, who pays the price? This film is extremely important because this is an emerging problem that is not yet public. It’s time to start a debate about this.