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13 April 2007

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from 15 to 21 April 2007, at the invitation of the Government.

The Special Rapporteur will conduct a first-hand investigation of the situation of the judicial system and will enquire in particular on issues such as the independence of judges, prosecutors and lawyers, their professional training, the level of access of the population to the justice system and the respect of fair trial guarantees in the court system. He will make recommendations to assist the newly elected Government, following the first democratic elections in the country in November last year, in strengthening the efficiency and independence of the judiciary, in particular in light of the new Constitution adopted in February last year by referendum, which puts the independence of the judiciary as one of the pillars of the new democratic system of governance.

The visit of the Special Rapporteur will cover Kinshasa, Bunia, Bukavu and Goma. He will meet with the Prime Minister and other Government ministers; judges and prosecutors from various levels of courts, both civil and military; lawyers; the United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC (MONUC); other international organizations; non-governmental organizations, and the donor community.

The Special Rapporteur will submit his preliminary findings and recommendations in a note to the United Nations Human Rights Council in mid June 2007. He will present his final report to the Human Rights Council in the second half of 2007.

Mr. Despouy, President of the Auditoría-General of Argentina, which audits the country's public service, was appointed Special Rapporteur in September 2003. He has extensive experience in human rights and international humanitarian law and has held a number of high-level positions in the United Nations and the Government of Argentina.

For more information on the visit please call: + 41 22 917 9158, or write to jraue@ohchr.org.