KINSHASA/GENEVA (1 March 2017) – Defence and security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo used excessive, disproportionate and at times lethal force to prevent and contain demonstrations in December 2016, a UN report published today has found.
According to the report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office of MONUSCO (UNJHRO), at least 40 people, including five women and two children, were killed between 15 and 31 December 2016 across several cities of the DRC, among them Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Boma and Matadi.
The findings of the UNJHRO investigation show that 28 individuals were killed by soldiers of the
Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), six by agents of the
Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) and the remaining six during joint PNC and FARDC operations. All but two of the victims were killed by live ammunition.
During the same period, at least 147 individuals were injured by State agents, including 14 women and 18 children, and at least 917 individuals, including 30 women and 95 children, were arrested by defence and security forces. The report also notes that some protesters carried out acts of violence, including the killing of at least one PNC agent in Kinshasa on 20 December 2016.
The report indicates that most of the victims were unarmed civilians wounded by live ammunition on upper parts of the body, suggesting an excessive and disproportionate use of force by security forces in operations to contain the demonstrations.
“Such serious incidents are worrisome, particularly in the current context. The Government bears the primary responsibility to implement the confidence-building measures provided for under the 31 December 2016 Global and Inclusive Political Agreement to defuse tensions and create an environment conducive to the holding of peaceful elections. MONUSCO will continue to support efforts by the Government to achieve these objectives, including through investigation and strong sanction for all those responsible for serious human rights violations,” said Maman Sambo Sidikou, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC.
“MONUSCO remains committed to accompanying the DRC towards peaceful, credible and inclusive elections,” Sidikou stressed.
The report also condemns the fact that while the PNC is normally in charge of crowd control operations, during the period under review, FARDC soldiers, including those of the Republican Guard and of the Military Police, were deployed to control crowds, functions for which they are not adequately equipped nor trained. The lack of accountability for past human rights violations, including those committed during the demonstrations in Kinshasa on 19 and 20 September 2016, may have encouraged a sense of impunity, and defence and security forces to commit further violations in December 2016.
“Once again we see serious human rights violations being committed blatantly and with complete impunity by the security forces, who employed excessive use of force against unarmed demonstrators, in flagrant violation of international human rights law and standards,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
“I urge the Government to ensure that those responsible for such violations committed in the context of events that marked the end of President Joseph Kabila’s second constitutional mandate are held accountable and brought to justice. Measures should also be taken, at all levels, to ensure that the legitimate exercise of fundamental freedoms by the population will not lead to loss of lives and other serious rights violations,” Zeid said.
“I therefore call on the DRC Government to urgently adopt the law on freedom of peaceful protests and the law on human rights defenders. This is hugely important for the coming months as the DRC should move towards implementing the 31 December political agreement and preparing for the next presidential election,” Zeid stressed.
full report here
The UN Joint Human Rights Office, which was 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).
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