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Human Rights Council – Universal Periodic Review

3 December 2009 (morning)
For use of information media; not an official record

The Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group reviewed the fulfilment of human rights obligations by the Democratic Republic of Congo this morning, during which fifty-nine Council members and observers raised a number of issues pertaining to the human rights situation in the country.

This morning, the Working Group also adopted, ad referendum, the report on the Dominican Republic, following the review of the country on Tuesday 1 December.

Presenting the national report of the Democratic Republic of Congo was UPIO KAKURA WAPOL, Minister for Human Rights, who said the report resulted from broad-based consultations and had been adopted during the National Human Rights and Rule of Law Conference which brought together the national and provincial authorities and other stakeholders. After a cycle of conflict, leading to untold human loss, looting of resources and destruction of the economic fabric, the Democratic Republic of Congo was restoring hope to its people. Despite this renaissance, the documents published on the human rights on the country often contained truncated reports on the situation in the country. The Government had made remarkable efforts to improve the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Notable progress had been achieved in protecting and promoting human rights human rights, despite problems such as the restricted budget and the overall level of poverty of the population. 

Legislation contained recent texts promulgating laws protecting human rights, such as the law on sexual violence, that on protecting the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS, and on protecting children. The 2006 Constitution enshrined most of these rights and conferred on them fundamental values, such as the prohibition of torture, protecting the individual and not the Powers. Various wars which the country had suffered had seriously affected the situation around human rights, and also delayed the country's development. The restoration of peace was an effective precondition for the enjoyment of all rights, and the Government and MONUC had taken effective steps to ensure the continuance of peace. On the fight against sexual violence and similar crimes, there was a National Agency to combat violence against women and girls, and synergies to combat sexual violence were very active in the field. Progress had been achieved in sanctioning these crimes. 

The use of children in armed conflict was an issue of great concern for the Government, and there was a National Strategy on Political and Electoral Participation of Women, and a National Fund to protect women and children. Given the allegation of the use of children in the army, the Government was pursuing its policy of general demobilisation through the National Disarmament and Rehabilitation Programme. Those responsible for dragooning children, trafficking children, and other forms of exploitation would be brought to book. There was a Zero Tolerance Policy on trafficking, and those guilty of corruption were also sanctioned. On the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, tangible efforts were being made in legislation and practical implementation measures, and water, health, education and electricity were some of the main areas on which the Government was focusing. On the abolition of the death penalty, in terms of the Constitution, this had been abolished, and the legislation amending the Penal Code was under consideration. Transitional Justice for the many unpunished crimes also remained a primary concern for the Government. 

During the three-hour interactive discussion, delegations noted a number of positive achievements of the State under review. These included the quality of the national report, and the spirit in which the Government had faced this consideration with self-criticism, recognising difficulties and reaffirming its willingness to deal with the problems; the major efforts and progress made by the country based on the political will of the Government which aimed to continue to protect and promote the rights of the citizens; the various institutional developments in the field such as the setting up of Ministries including the Ministry for Gender and the Ministry for Women and the Child; the Government's organisation of a campaign entitled Zero Children in the Armed Forces and Armed Groups; the evidence of good past cooperation with the International Criminal Court; the commitments made by the Government in the national report and the extensive answers provided in advance; and that the Government had adopted a zero-tolerance approach to sexual violence.

Issues and questions raised by the Working Group, comprised of the 47 members of the Council, and Observers participating in the interactive discussion related to, among other things, that it was not imposed external solutions that would bring an end to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but rather a need for structural readjustment within the country which would help remove the problems, and thus the international community should cooperate fully with the Government in this regard; the abuse of human rights committed by all armed groups on the territory; the arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and the intimidation of journalists, who received death threats and the climate of intimidation prevailing in the country; that serious human rights violations continued, including massacres, kidnappings, mass displacements and the recruitment of child soldiers, the number of which was ever-increasing; and the lack of punishment for the perpetrators of sexual violence.

A number of delegations also posed specific recommendations. These
included: that the Government arrest and prosecute members of the armed forces, without exception according to rank, who committed sexual violence; that the peace agreements be implemented to promote respect for international humanitarian law and promote respect for the civilian population; the elaboration of laws for the protection of human rights defenders in cooperation with civil society and relevant international agencies; that the Government set up a national agency to deal with cases of sexual violence and that it provide reparation to victims; that there be a National Campaign of awareness-raising on witchcraft; that a National Security Reform Plan be adopted as soon as possible; that perpetrators of human rights violations should be brought to justice; that a State-run vetting system be established to remove the worst violators and perpetrators of sexual violence from the army; that the safety of journalists be ensured, and further steps be taken to ensure an environment favourable to a free and independent media; and that all child soldiers be released from the Congolese army. 

Other recommendations included: to put in place concrete policies to ensure that human rights defenders could conduct their work freely and without hindrance; to ensure that Members of political parties, the media and civil society were allowed to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association as per international standards; to take into account the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial and arbitrary executions; to execute the warrants for arrest issued by the International Criminal Court; to strengthen measures to improve conditions in prisons; to continue the comprehensive efforts to improve the education system; to ensure progress in ending trafficking in women and children; to improve the legislative and regulatory basis for the protection of human rights; that judicial officials be trained in the application of the 2006 Law on sexual violence; that plans to abolish the death penalty be accelerated; to ensure peace throughout the country, as that was essential for development; to reform the judiciary and police systems in order to better concretise the rights of all citizens, and that international financing and cooperation should be sought for this reform; and to issue a standing invitation to all Special Procedures.

Responding to the questions raised and in closing remarks, Mr. Wapol said the questions and comments showed the appreciation of the challenges faced, but also of the Government's willingness to pursue not only the constructive and interactive dialogue, but, above all else, its commitment to making headway on improving the situation of all human rights. The State and people's commitment to overcoming the challenges could not be ignored- they would not give way before any obstacle, be it economic, financial, or other. With regards to impunity, in particular related to gender-based violence, there was a National Strategy to combat sexual violence, and this was part of the National Strategy to combat impunity. Violence against women and girls was today a situation that was observed throughout the country, including within civilian groups, and it was important to take steps in order to fight against this phenomenon and ultimately eradicate it, and there was a detailed Plan of Action for this end.

Member States taking the floor during the interactive discussion were Cuba, Belgium, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Brazil, Italy, Hungary, Chile, India, Mexico, Angola, Republic of Korea, Egypt, Japan, Slovakia, China, Slovenia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Norway, United States of America, South Africa, Djibouti, Gabon, Argentina, Ghana, Senegal and Uruguay.

Observer States participating in the discussion were Canada, Belarus, Denmark, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Algeria, Ireland, Finland, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Republic of the Congo, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, Holy See, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Australia, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Niger, Poland, Greece, Luxembourg, Libya, Uganda, Latvia, Cote d'Ivoire, and Burundi. 

The thirty-six-person delegation of the Democratic Republic of Congo consisted of representatives from the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United Nations Office at Geneva, the Senate, Regional Ministries from the Bandundu and Katanga provinces, the Ministry for Parliamentary Cooperation, civil society, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary, the Minister in charge of Defence and Security, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Communication and the Media.

The three Council members serving as rapporteurs – troika - for the review of the Democratic Republic of Congo are Slovenia, Gabon, and Japan.

In accordance with its institution-building package, the three documents on which State reviews should be based are information prepared by the State concerned, which could be presented either orally or in writing; information contained in the reports of treaty bodies and Special Procedures, to be compiled in a report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR); and information provided by other relevant stakeholders to the UPR including non-governmental organizations, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, academic institutions and research institutes, regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives, also to be summarized by OHCHR in a separate document. The reports on the DRC can be found here.

The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the report of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday 7 December.

Adoption of report on the Dominican Republic: The three Council members serving as the troika for the report on the Dominican Republic are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bangladesh and Argentina. Introducing the report, ALBERTO J. DUMONT (Argentina) said the draft report reflected the discussion which took place on Tuesday 1 December, and the recommendations made, some of which were already accepted by the Dominican Republic, which had shown a cooperative spirit throughout and its commitment to the exercise. Representing the State under review, MAX PUIG, Secretary of State for Employment of Dominican Republic, said that this exercise would help Dominica to further protect human rights in that country, and it would examine all of the recommendations made with the greatest attention.

When the UPR Working Group continues its work this afternoon at 2:30 p.m., it will review the fulfilment of human rights obligations by Cote d'Ivoire, and is scheduled to adopt, ad referendum, the report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

Additional information on the Universal Periodic Review mechanism can be located at the UPR webpage - http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/UPRMain.aspx.

To access the webcast for the UPR session please visit http://www.un.org/webcast/unhrc/index.asp

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