Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Date: 7 September 2018
Subject: Democratic Republic of the Congo
We are deeply concerned about the violent suppression of peaceful protests by civil society organizations and opposition political parties ahead of the start of the electoral campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo, despite public commitments made by the Congolese authorities to lift the ban on demonstrations in place since 2017. While some improvements have been seen in crowd control and the maintenance of public order and security, the Congolese police has continued to use excessive force against political activists and demonstrators that has led to the killing of one political activist in the southeast of the country and the arrests of dozens of others.
On 1 September in Lubumbashi, Haut-Kananga province, oneman was killed ahead of a planned political meeting of the opposition platform Ensemble pour le changement. At least nine other members of the organisation were arrested. We understand one of these individuals was released, while some others have been charged with rebellion, criminal association, vandalism, insulting a public agent and arson.
Also in Lubumbashi, on Monday 3 September, police dispersed a demonstration by the citizens’ movement, Luttepour le changement (Lucha) who were handing a petition to the provincial offices of the Commission Electoral National Independent (CENI) protesting against the use of the voting machine. This was part of a nationwide protest. At least 65 protestors were arrested in Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, Bukavu, Goma and Mbuji-Mayi. In other cities such as Beni, Butemboand Kananga, demonstrations took place without incident.
The September incidents follow the violent suppression of protests in early August in Lubumbashi and Kasumbalesa. On 2 and 6 August, security forces dispersed protestors using teargas and live ammunition, which resulted in the death of a woman and two boys aged 10 and 15. Three other people were wounded by live ammunition. At least 55 people were arrested in Kasumbalesa and at least 34 were arrested in Lubumbashi. Of these 89 individuals, 68 remain in pre-trial detention, and have been charged with robbery, malicious destruction, incitement contempt forauthorities and rebellion.
Ahead of the crucial national elections on 23 December this year, we urge the Congolese authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Any allegations of excessive use of force by the police and security forces must be investigated, with a view to holding those responsibleto account. Justice remains elusive for victims of past incidents of killings and injuries caused by the excessive and disproportionate use of force by defence and security forces in demonstrations since 2016. We reiterate our offer to support all initiatives contributing to bringing the perpetrators of these violations to justice.
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2018 is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70thanniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.
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