DRC: Attacks on activists and journalists persist

Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- Enhanced Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo


Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report.

We welcomed measures taken by DRC in 2019 under President Tshisekedi to open democratic space but regret ongoing civic space violations in 2020. Journalists and HRDs have been subject to threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests – often on accusations of contempt of officials or defamation. Activist Joseph Bayoko Lokondo was sentenced in March 2020 to 13 months in prison for ‘contempt of a member of the government’ and ‘defamatory statements’ for having criticized the provincial governor. He was released in July after an appeal court reduced his sentence. Freddy Kambale, activist for the social movement LUCHA, was killed in May 2020 by live ammunition during a peaceful protest against increasing insecurity in North Kivu.

Several protests in Kinshasa against the appointment of a new president of the national electoral commission (CENI) in July 2020 were banned by authorities on grounds of the health emergency, while protests in several cities were dispersed and in some cases met with excessive and lethal force. Other protesters in Kinshasa, Goma and Kisangani were dispersed, and tens of protesters detained.

We call on the administration to ensure that fundamental freedoms are respected, including by reviewing all restrictive legislation, decriminalising press offences as a matter of urgency, and ensuring the protection of human rights defenders and journalists.

Further sustained progress will prove impossible without the full participation, and protection, of civil society. We ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support our colleagues on the ground?

Finally, we call on the Council to ensure the continuation of this vital mandate in order to maintain and build on the increasingly fragile improvements we have seen since 2019.

Civic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor