20 March 2012

Congo-Kinshasa: Serious Human Rights Violations Committed During Elections - UN Report

Photo: Melanie Gouby/ RNW
DRC citizens' reactions to election results in Goma.

Serious human rights violations, including killings, disappearances and arbitrary detentions, were committed by Congolese and security forces during last year's presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to a United Nations report released today.

The report documents the killing of at least 33 people by security forces in Kinshasa, the capital, between 26 November and 25 December, as well as the wounding of 83 others, most of them by bullets. In addition, 16 people remain unaccounted for and 265 people were arrested, many of them saying they were arbitrarily detained and tortured while in confinement.

The 28 November election was only the country's second multi-party vote since independence from Belgium in 1960.

The report, which is based on investigations conducted by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC, found that most of the reported violations involved republican guards, national Congolese police or the national intelligence agency. Soldiers of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) were also involved to a lesser extent.

"We have heard multiple accounts of Republican Guards shooting live ammunition into crowds and of the torture of arbitrarily detained individuals," said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. "The authorities must ensure that such grave violations of human rights are investigated, perpetrators brought to justice and that those who remain illegally detained are released without delay."

The investigation also found that many of the victims of violations were targeted because of their affiliation to the political opposition party of Etienne Tshisekedi, the main opponent of President Joseph Kabila in the presidential elections.

The UN Joint Human Rights Office noted that despite initial difficulties accessing detention facilities, victims and witnesses, the Government showed engagement by opening a judicial investigation in December.

The head of the peacekeeping mission in the country (MONUSCO), Roger Meece, expressed appreciation for the Government's commitment to pursue a judicial investigation and fight impunity to prevent the recurrence of such violations.

"MONUSCO looks forward to the outcome of the judicial investigation and stands ready to continue to assist and support the DRC justice authorities to identify and bring perpetrators to justice," Mr. Meece said.

"Recent prosecutions and trials undertaken with MONUSCO's support throughout the country have led to the arrest of a significant number of perpetrators of human rights violations. I welcome these recent developments and the positive cooperation between MONUSCO and the DRC military and civilian justice authorities."

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