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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on the Democratic Republic of Congo and Guatemala

Briefing notes: DRC, Guatemala

14 February 2017

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location: Geneva
Date: 14 February 2017

(1) Democratic Republic of Congo

There are troubling reports that soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo killed at least 101 people during clashes with members of a local militia between 9 and 13 February.

The clashes are reported to have taken place in the territory of Dibaya in Kasai Central Province between the armed forces - the FARDC - and members of the Kamuina Nsapu militia, who are loyal to a local chief killed by the army on 12 August last year.

Much of the latest violence is said to have happened in and around the town of Tshimbulu. According to information from several sources, FARDC soldiers opened fire indiscriminately with machine guns when they saw the militia fighters, who were armed mainly with machetes and spears. Some 39 women are reported to have been caught in the fire and are among the dead.

We are deeply concerned at the reported high number of deaths, which if confirmed would suggest excessive and disproportionate use of force by the soldiers.

We condemn any excessive use of force and call on the FARDC soldiers to abide by acceptable standards of national law and international human rights law in their responses, in particular to exercise restraint and to use force only when necessary and proportionate to the threat, to minimize damage and injury and to respect and preserve human lives. We urge the military commanders to reinforce this message with their troops.

The Kamuina Nsapu militia is named after a customary chief, who was killed by the FARDC in August 2016. We condemn the militia’s practice of recruiting children into its ranks and also its targeting of state symbols and institutions, such as government buildings, police stations and churches.

The UN Joint Human Rights Office is seeking to verify the exact number of victims.  We call for a full and independent investigation into this latest violence. Since August we have been documenting atrocities by both sides and we offer our support to the authorities to investigate serious human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the ongoing conflict in Kasai Central both by the FARDC and the militia.

Given the ongoing violence, we also reiterate our call for increased efforts to find durable solutions to conflicts with customary chiefs in Kasai Central Province. 

(2) Guatemala

We are deeply concerned at the ongoing misinformation and smear campaigns directed against the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala and its head, Iván Velásquez, which have intensified over the last week, especially on social media.

With the support of the Commission, known by its Spanish initials as CICIG, Guatemala has made remarkable progress in the fight against impunity and corruption in recent years. Working with the Office of the Attorney General, CICIG has investigated and prosecuted criminal organizations that have infiltrated State institutions within all three branches of government, thereby undermining the progress made to strengthen democracy in Guatemala since the end of the internal armed conflict in 1996.

Last week Mr. Velásquez described the constant misinformation campaigns against CICIG “as a kind of psychological war to which criminal structures turn in order to resist being eliminated”.

CICIG is a crucial ally of our Office in Guatemala in the promotion of human rights and we echo the firm support for the Commission and Mr. Velásquez expressed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

The UN Human Rights Office in Guatemala has worked closely over several years with CICIG to help to create and strengthen an independent and impartial justice system. Recently this has included support during the development of proposed constitutional reforms that are currently being debated by Congress and which seek to address long-standing structural problems in the justice system.

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]) or Liz Throssell  (+41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected]) 

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