The UN Human Rights Council placed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under scrutiny today by adopting a resolution that puts the country at the center of its attention. This strong political move was essential to respond to the human rights crisis that is unfolding in the DRC in the electoral context, as all signals are red and violence keeps on mounting.
“The United Nations just sent President Kabila a crystal-clear message: respect the rule of law, the Constitution and the electoral process; otherwise you will be held to account before the international community”, said Dimitris Christopoulos, FIDH President. “By doing so, the Human Rights Council reminded us that respect for democratic elections and human rights are interrelated, in the DRC and elsewhere”, he added.
The resolution that was adopted today expresses deep concern over the violence committed in the context of elections, including the use of disproportionate force against demonstrators who demand that President Kabila leave office at the end of his second constitutionally-mandated term, on 19 December 2016. It also raises increasing restrictions on fundamental freedoms, in particular arbitrary detentions, threats against civil society, journalists and members of political parties, and restrictions to freedoms of expression and assembly.
The resolution provides for the holding of public debates on the DRC at each and every regular session of the Council in 2017. It also opens the door to further action – including through a special session, which FIDH called for in July 2016. This increase in the attention given to the DRC is in line with the asks we formulated ahead of the Council’s 33rd session, which ends tonight.
“The Human Rights Council took a step in the right direction, but the true test will be its ability to respond to developments on the ground, as the latter may threaten regional stability”, said Paul Nsapu, President of the Ligue des Électeurs. “The Council should be vigilant and stand ready to further contribute to international efforts to prevent a crisis whose consequences could be incalculable”, he added.
On 19 September, FIDH, its member and partner organizations in the DRC, and member organizations of the #MonVoteDoitCompter coalition called on the Congolese authorities to put an end to the repression and to guarantee freedoms of expression and assembly, as large-scale demonstrations were ongoing in various cities of the country, including Kinshasa, to call for President Kabila’s departure in December 2016.
However, law enforcement forces renewed their brutal crackdown on demonstrations, while the latter had been authorized by the government. According to the information we gathered, between 19 and 20 September several dozen civilians were killed by law enforcement in Kinshasa. Officials used lethal weapons and fired live ammunition at the crowds. Over one thousand demonstrators, including political opposition and independent civil society members, as well as journalists, were arbitrarily arrested and detained, some of them incommunicado. Many of them are still being held. Men, some of them wearing police uniforms, participated in the sacking of various opposition party headquarters – four of these (UDPS, FONUS, ECIDE et MLP) were burned down. The headquarters of two pro-President parties were also targeted. In other cities, including Kisangani and Goma, human rights activists were arrested. Among them are four members of the Filimbi movement in Kisangani, namely Attorney Ms. Cathy Bosongo and Messrs. Simplice Kapipa, Gauthier Kasonya and Abedi Radjabu. They remain in detention. It was reported that some of them were subjected to acts of torture.
Our organizations urge the Congolese authorities to put an end to the repression of those who oppose President Kabila’s bid to stay in power and to immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained persons, including those who are held incommunicado.