Profiles in Prevention

Noel Kilomba


Noel Kilomba is a current member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Constitutional Court—the highest constitutional authority in the DRC. Prior to his appointment to the Court, he was Coordinator of DRC National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities and member of the ICGLR Regional Committee for the Prevention and the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and all forms of Discrimination. Mr. Kilomba attended the November 2011 Lemkin Seminar, Global edition.

Why are you so dedicated to the field of genocide and mass atrocity prevention?

First, being a lawyer by training and having studied criminal law to become a magistrate, I have always worked against violations of human rights and for justice. In 2010, I was designated by my country to be a member of the Regional Committee for the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities in the Great Lakes region. I was really impressed by a training given in Kampala, Uganda, from September 22 – 23, 2010, upon the establishment of our regional committee—especially the module taught by Professor Frank Chalk.

I was very much influenced by the quality of the instruction at the Auschwitz Institute’s Raphael Lemkin Seminar in November 2011. The seminar strengthened my conviction towards the prevention of genocide and other mass atrocities. In particular, the visit to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II-Birkenau allowed me to understand the reality of genocide. From the seminar, I realized that there were also indications of dehumanization of ethnic groups in my country, and that they must be protected at all costs. I am therefore determined to work all my life to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in my country and around the world. What I saw and learned at Auschwitz will remain forever engraved in me. I understood equally the determination of Pope John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) who lived in Krakow, near Auschwitz, in his fight against injustice.

I am now aware that there are men in this world who are determined to exterminate others for the sole purpose of enriching themselves and that this risk is permanent in any country in the world, including my own.

What does a day or week in your current position look like?

After having worked as a judge for the Supreme Court of Justice of my country, on July 7, 2014, I was appointed Member of the Constitutional Court, so I am one of the nine wise men of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

However, after having successfully established the National Committee on the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities last year, I can no longer preside over the committee given my new duties. I still remain a resource person for the committee and provide various guiding and strategic help to prevent genocide and mass atrocities in my country.

What are the actions and policies the most effective in the long-term prevention of mass atrocities?

The first thing is to install in all countries structures to prevent mass atrocities. And it is equally necessary to finance them so that they coordinate and function optimally.

It should be noted that in post-conflict countries there is often a problem of funds, and without adequate financing, nothing can be realized. My country has a surface area of two million square kilometers and is as large as Western Europe. Because so much of our infrastructure is being rebuilt, there is a lot of difficulty in accessing certain areas.

Adequate funding is also required to strengthen the capacity of those leading sensitization training for prevention. Doctoral scholarships in the field of mass atrocity prevention should be funded as well. I would like to defend a thesis on the prevention of mass atrocities at the Montreal Institute For Genocide and Human Rights Studies at Concordia University with four other Congolese. This will allow us to create such an institute on-site for the prevention of genocide that will train thousands of people.

What inspires and motivates you?

The protection of life is a universally recognized human right for all that no one has the right to destroy. I am motivated because I have found that the risks are permanent. If we conduct an inquiry of dehumanized communities, for example in my country, we would have many examples. Elections in Africa are becoming a risk factor for mass atrocities and the case of Côte d’Ivoire speaks to this.

What advice do you have for a government official new to the field of genocide prevention?

I think it is necessary to train and sensitize the population to prevent mass atrocities in order to prevent risk factors. It is also necessary to effectively fight against impunity for those who call for hatred, and to financially support local judicial structures. The President of DR Congo has requested the establishment of special courts for human rights in the coming years to try all the perpetrators of mass atrocities and other grave violations of human rights and International Humanitarian Law.

In essence, we must combine support for awareness and capacity building of stakeholders in prevention in the fight against impunity because there is no prevention without justice. The primary jurisdiction to try genocide and other war crimes is recognized to be in states, with the International Criminal Court acting as a subsidiary venue.

My current greatest suffering is that after having taken numerous trainings in the prevention of mass atrocities at Auschwitz, Kampala, Dar-Es-Salaam, Juba, etc., I do not know how to share this expertise with my compatriots, and I hope to one day be cured of this suffering.