Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 20 September 2016
Subject: (1) DRC & (2) Egypt
We are deeply worried at the latest round of violence in the DRC.
Violent clashes between demonstrators and police forces took place yesterday in the capital Kinshasa. According to Government figures, 17 people, including three police officers, were killed and an unknown number of people were injured. Other sources report much higher figures, which are still being verified. Close to 200 people are believed to have been arrested.
Violence continued last night and the headquarters of five opposition political parties were attacked and set on fire. According to our team on the ground, at least two more people lost their lives and three others were injured. We have just heard that riots have erupted this morning and shots have been heard.
We have received reports of excessive use of force by some elements of the security forces as well as reports that some demonstrators resorted to violence. We call on all sides to show restraint and urge the authorities to ensure that existing national and international standards* on the appropriate use of force are fully respected by all security personnel.
We call for a credible and impartial investigation to bring those responsible for human rights violations and criminal acts to justice and stand ready to support such an inquiry. This latest round of violence highlights the urgent need for a meaningful and inclusive dialogue on the electoral process.
We will continue to closely follow up and document the situation.
We are extremely concerned by the recent decision of a Cairo Criminal Court to freeze the assets of five prominent human rights activists – namely Hossam Bahgat, Gamal Eid, Bahey el-Din Hassan, Mostafa al-Hassan, and Abdel Hafez Taye.
The asset freeze was also applied to three well-respected non-governmental organizations – the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Hisham Mubarak Law Center and the Egyptian Center for the Right to Education. The status of two other NGOs, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), remains unclear, as it is not yet known whether the prosecution will classify these organizations – which are partly owned by Hosam Bahgat and Gamal Eid – as being among their assets.
We are particularly concerned that this decision by the Court now opens the way for further criminal proceedings against the defendants who, if found guilty, could be sentenced to life in prison – which amount to 25 years of detention under Egyptian laws.
Reportedly, a total of twelve human rights defenders, including Hossam Bahgat and Gamal Eid, continue to be subject to travel bans issued last February in connection with ongoing investigations. However, we note and welcome the fact that the Criminal Court did not take the further extreme step of upholding freezes on the assets of family members of the defendants as had been previously recommended by a panel of three judges chosen by the Cairo Court of Appeals at the request of the Ministry of Justice.
The High Commissioner is alarmed by the continuing closure or intimidation of numerous human rights NGOs, and prosecution of their staff, by the Egyptian authorities. Such acts may serve as a means of restraining the legitimate exercise of the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression by the NGOs’ members – and, through setting them an example, undermines these fundamental human rights for the population at large.
The Government of Egypt has accepted a number of recommendations under the second Universal Periodic Review cycle to promote and protect the right to freedom of association, as well as to adopt a new NGO law that is compliant with international human rights, and we urge them to uphold those commitments, including most importantly through the enactment of an NGO law that fully complies with Egypt’s international human rights obligations, as well as with Article 75 of its own Constitution.
*The conduct of law enforcement officials is addressed by a number of specific international standards and codes, including the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
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