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Deaths in DRC detention centers doubled in 2012, says UN report

KINSHASA/GENEVA (13 March 2013) A UN research into the human rights situation in detention centers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shows that the number of deaths in detention almost doubled in 2012, and that conditions of detention remain extremely poor in the vast majority of detention centres.

Between January 2010 and December 2012, a total of at least 211 civilians died in Congolese detention centers. In 2012, 101 such deaths were recorded compared to 54 in 2010 and 56 in 2011. The report notes that poor conditions, including overcrowding, malnutrition, limited access to health care and lack of resources, were the main causes of death, but also says that more than 10 percent of the deaths (24 cases) were caused by torture or ill-treatment, a finding it describes as “extremely worrying.”

The report, published Wednesday, details the results of in-depth research conducted by human rights officers working for the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO)* during visits to prisons and other detention centers throughout the country.

“Someone deprived of their liberty, should never be allowed to die of hunger or ill-treatment,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “It is the responsibility of the State to keep prisoners alive and in good health, in accordance with international standards. The very serious and persistent problems surrounding detention conditions in the DRC need to be addressed without further delay.”

While recognizing the direct impact that the lack of resources and equipment in the penitentiary services has on the number of deaths in detention, the UNJHRO report placed much of the blame on the rampant corruption and lack of transparency affecting the management of prisons in the DRC.

“MONUSCO welcomes practical measures taken by the Government to remedy the situation, including the suspension of high-ranking officials suspected of corruption. The international community should support the government’s efforts to reform the prison system and improve conditions of detention,” said the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General, Roger Meece.

The report reminds the Government of its obligations to protect and take care of people in detention, and points out that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure that their basic needs are satisfied, particularly those that, if neglected, might result in loss of life.

* 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.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Kinshasa:
Carlos Araujo: +243 81 890 6323 / araujoc@un.org
Barbara Matasconi: +243 81 890 6243 / matasconi@un.org

In Geneva:
Rupert Colville: +41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org
Cécile Pouilly: +41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org