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Zeid condemns expulsion of top UN human rights official in DRC

GENEVA (19 October 2014) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Sunday said he regretted and condemned the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to order his top official in the country to leave within 48 hours, and the serious intimidation aimed at other human rights staff in DRC.

“Not only has my highly experienced and respected representative in DRC, Scott Campbell, been told to leave, but two other staff working in his team have been seriously threatened in recent days. This is unacceptable,” Zeid said.

The decision to declare Scott Campbell, the director of the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office, persona non grata was initially made public by the Ministry of the Interior on Thursday, a day after the publication of a UN report* detailing serious human rights violations by Congolese security forces, for which the Ministry is responsible. The decision was officially confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday, despite a concerted effort by Martin Kobler, the Head of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), to persuade the Government to reconsider its decision.

The report, based on investigations conducted by the UN Joint Human Rights Office, documents the killing of at least nine civilians and the enforced disappearance of at least 32 others by Congolese National Police agents. It was shared with the Ministers of Interior and of Justice and Human Rights on 18 August, and the responses of the Minister of Interior were annexed to the published version of the report.

“The report was published jointly by MONUSCO and my Office,” Zeid said. “And I join wholeheartedly with Mr. Kobler in supporting its conclusions and recommendations. It describes a range of very serious violations including summary and extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, committed against civilians by Congolese security forces. The Government of the DRC should be investigating its deeply disturbing findings and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice rather than seeking to punish the leader of the team that researched and produced the report.”

“Over the past few years, under the guidance of Mr. Campbell, the UN Joint Office for Human Rights in the DRC has been at the forefront of the fight to promote and protect human rights and combat impunity,” the High Commissioner said. “The fact that their work, mandated by the Security Council, has led to these acts of reprisal is a very disturbing development indeed.”

The High Commissioner urged the Government of DRC to reconsider its decision against Mr. Campbell, investigate continuing intimidation and threats against other UN human rights staff, and hold those responsible accountable. "With these acts of intimidation and reprisal, the Congolese authorities risk setting back years of strenuous efforts by UN human rights staff and some sectors of the Congolese authorities to assist victims of human rights violations and strengthen the rule of law," Zeid said.

Mr. Campbell left the DRC on Friday for long planned holidays.

ENDS

*The report is available at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/CDReports.aspx

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), established in February 2008, comprises the Human Rights Division of the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the DRC (OHCHR-DRC).

For more information and media requests:

In Kinshasa:
Charles Bambara: +243 81 890 5202 / +243 99 706 8873, bambara@un.org

In Geneva:
Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466 / ethrossell@ohchr.org or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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