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Statement by Ms. Manuela Carmena Castrillo, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention at the Eight Special Session of the Human Rights Council: “The situation of human rights in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates of Member States
Dear representatives of civil society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Coordination Committee of the Special Procedures has asked me to deliver the following statement on behalf of the Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council.

First of all, we wish to express our gratitude to the President of the Council for providing us with this opportunity to participate in today’s Special Session. On behalf of all special procedures mandate holders, I would like to seize this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment, as independent experts, to support the work of the Council and to constructively engage with this body with a view to enhancing cooperation on the promotion and protection of human rights.

As a mechanism, we believe we can make constructive and meaningful contributions to the discussions during the special sessions, whether devoted to the human rights situation in a given country or on a particular thematic human rights issue. 

For over 15 years, the then Commission on Human Rights, and subsequently the Human Rights Council, have been closely following the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition to the specific mandate established in 1994, revised in 2004 and terminated in 2008, a number of thematic Special rapporteurs have regularly visited the country, including its Eastern part, reporting to this body about the issues related to their respective mandates. Through their reports, they have provided information on the human rights situation on the ground, including recommendations aimed at redressing the situation. 

For instance, in the past two years, three thematic mandate holders, namely, the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers (April 2007), the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (July 2007) and the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons (March 2008) carried out official visits with a particular focus on the Eastern part of the country. Their reports are available for your consideration. 

This year, in March 2008, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 7/20, inviting six Special Procedures mandate holders of the Human Rights Council and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, “to make recommendations, within their respective mandates, on how best to assist technically the Democratic Republic of the Congo in addressing the situation of human rights, with a view to obtaining tangible improvement on the ground, taking also into account the needs formulated by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.

We would like to acknowledge the spirit of cooperation displayed by the DRC in accepting requests for visits by mandate holders and we are confident that the same cooperation will be extended to the recent requests put forward by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on summary, extrajudicial and arbitrary executions and that they will be invited to carry out official visits in the coming months.

We further appreciate the recent initiative undertaken by the newly appointed Minister for Human Rights of the DRC, requesting thematic special procedures to assess the current human rights situation in the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular in a number of localities in North Kivu and in Dungu. We can assure you that Special Procedures, as a group and in their own areas of thematic expertise, are fully committed to following up on this.

We are confident that the DRC’s cooperation with special procedures will go beyond issuing invitations for country visits and hope that it will devote serious efforts towards implementing the recommendations presented so far by the various mandate holders.   

We would also like to echo the statement made yesterday by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, pointing out that “a failure to adequately address the root causes of the conflict in the eastern part of the country will risk leading to further outbreaks of large-scale violence in the DRC itself, and possibly elsewhere in the Great Lakes region of Africa”.

As independent experts, we are committed to supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in cooperation with MONUC, in building its capacity to fulfill its human rights obligations and to guarantee the protection of human rights. We remain at the disposal of the Council in addressing this crisis and stand ready to contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Thank you for your attention.