Last year’s presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) were marred by serious human rights violations which included killings, disappearances and arbitrary detention, a UN Human Rights report says.
The UN Human Rights office representative in DRC, Scott Campbell, outlining the findings of the report said: “There were a number of serious human rights allegations that our team thoroughly investigated. And what we found is that there was a very worrying number of extrajudicial killings, disappearances and a large number of people arbitrarily arrested.
”The report documents violations from 26 November, the last day of the elections campaign, to the 25 December 2011.
At least 33 people were killed during this period, mostly by gunshot, and 83 were wounded, also primarily by gunshot. The presidential and parliamentary elections were held in the vast Central African nation on 28 November 2011.Investigations conducted by the UN Joint Human Rights Office indicate that the abuses were committed in the capital Kinshasa by Congolese defence and security forces in the context of the 2011 presidential and legislative elections in DRC.
Campbell recalled some eyewitness accounts:
“A number of people that were in detention gave us accounts of very gruesome physical abuse and torture of people in detention, including people being reportedly mutilated in custody after which their bodies thrown into the Congo river. There were fishermen and eyewitnesses that we spoke with who viewed the bodies afterward downstream.”
The report recommends an independent credible judicial enquiry into violations and to determine who exactly is responsible.
“The objective of that, of course, in holding people to account and making it known to the Congolese public that perpetrators have been punished, is to prevent such violations from happening again. And that is really the point: to prevent further abuses,” Campbell said.
Campbell remained confident that the justice system in the DRC had the capacity to bring to book those responsible despite weaknesses in the system.
“The system can work. There are members of the Congolese military justice and civilian justice systems that are extremely well trained, professional and can do their jobs. However the system is subject to an enormous amount of political interference and corruption.
“He added the United Nations has been successfully supporting the military and civilian justice systems, which has led to a number of important prosecutions of human rights violators over the past two years, and will continue to do so.
“So we are hopeful that in this case as well, justice will be done. And the United Nations stands ready as ever to provide our support to the justice authorities.
”The report calls on the international community to step up its assistance and to stay fully engaged in providing training and non-lethal support to both police and the military.
At the same time, the international community should insist, when abuses do occur, such as the ones documented in the report, that perpetrators should be held to account, justice is done, and victims are compensated.
20 March 2012