In recent years, courts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have produced some of the most progressive judicial decisions against perpetrators of gender violence of anywhere in the world. Yet, DR Congo is often described as the archetypal collapsed state. This article uses a case study of domestic courts in Eastern DR Congo to analyze how and why complex functions of domestic governance-such as the production of frequent and high-quality judicial decisions by domestic courts-are able to persist, even flourish, in an area where the state is characterized by extreme fragility and weakness. I argue that, rather than a decoupling of law and practice as previous approaches might predict, state fragility in DR Congo has created openings for domestic and transnational actors to exert direct influence over judicial processes at multiple levels of governance. The involvement of external actors in the domestic authority structures of states has resulted in surprisingly progressive human rights outcomes in certain issue areas. However, the article also documents some of the unintended consequences of human rights developments that occur at the very peripheries of broader state-building projects.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations