GENEVA / KINSHASA (11 December 2013) – A UN report released Wednesday reveals that while Congolese authorities have taken some measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations committed during the electoral period in 2011, much remains to be done. The report calls for measures to be taken to ensure that upcoming elections will take place in a peaceful climate, in an environment conducive to the respect for human rights.
The forward-looking report by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO)* in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) examines human rights violations documented by the UN from 1 October 2011 to 31 January 2012 in the context of the presidential and legislative elections. It stresses the importance of prosecuting those responsible for these violations before the next local, provincial and national elections, due to take place between 2014-2016, to prevent such crimes from being repeated.
The November 2011 elections in the DRC were marked by a large number of acts of violence between members of political parties in almost all of the provinces of the country. In addition to acts of violence committed by civilians against other civilians, serious human rights violations were perpetrated by the defense and security forces throughout the country.
The UNJHRO registered 345 human rights violations committed during the above-mentioned period, affecting at least 769 victims. In particular, the UNJHRO confirmed that at least 41 individuals were killed, 168 people were victims of violations of their right to physical integrity, and almost 400 were victims of violations of their right to liberty and personal security. The UNJHRO also registered 26 cases of violations of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, 48 cases of violations to freedom of expression as well as 18 cases of violations to freedom of the press. The defense and security forces were responsible for more than half of the registered violations and the most serious violations were committed in Kinshasa and in Kasai Oriental province.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed the need to expedite investigations leading to the criminal prosecution of perpetrators suspected of all human rights violations committed in the context of the elections and reiterated the importance of the fight against impunity for the stabilization of the DRC.
“I welcome all measures aimed at ending impunity. Unfortunately, the efforts made by Congolese authorities to address the human rights violations committed during the 2011 electoral period have not yet produced results. Impunity for the perpetrators of these human rights violations prevails even now, two years after the elections were held,” she said.
“I am particularly concerned about the human rights violations reportedly committed by security forces against supporters of political parties,” Pillay added. “Every threat, every act of violence, every arbitrary arrest of an opponent by the authorities constitutes a serious setback, not only for the protection of human rights in the DRC, but also for reconciliation for Congolese society.”
In the report, the UN recommends that Congolese authorities carry out independent, credible and impartial investigations into the human rights violations and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, regardless of their rank or position. It also calls for disciplinary measures against State officials and agents who have abused their privileges for partisan reasons, and for the authorities to firmly condemn incitement to violence and racial hatred.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC, Martin Kobler, stressed the importance of the lessons learned from the 2011 elections. He called on the Congolese Government to take advantage of the recommendations of the report, notably with regard to the next electoral cycle, and to take all necessary preventive measures to ensure the smooth and peaceful holding of presidential, legislative, provincial, and local elections which are scheduled to take place over the next three years.
A prompt implementation by Congolese authorities of the recommendations contained in the report is of particular importance, Mr. Kobler said, in light of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework Agreement for the DRC and the region signed in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, on 24 February 2013. Under this agreement, the Congolese state committed itself to promoting the goals of national reconciliation, tolerance, and democratization.
“The renewal of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) is already a decisive and positive step in preparing for the next electoral cycle”, affirmed Mr. Kobler. “The views expressed by the representatives of the Commission in favor of impartial, independent, transparent and fair elections are very encouraging. We call on the Congolese authorities and their international partners to work towards the effective implementation of the recommendations made in the report, particularly with regard to the fight against impunity, and to provide appropriate support and training to the civil, military and police authorities.”
*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 (OHCHR-DRC).
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