Statement at the 40th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Response during the Interactive Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo
CIVICUS welcomes the decree signed by newly-elected Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi to pardon about 700 political prisoners detained for participating in peaceful protests or expressing dissenting opinions. While we commend the President for fulfilling a pledge made in his inaugural address, we urge that this is swiftly followed by the actual release from prison of those detained.
Mr. President, the people of DRC have experienced years of widespread human rights violations and repression, including serious restrictions on freedom of association, assembly and expression. The use of violence to disperse peaceful protesters was a hallmark of the former regime and continued after the December 2018 elections. Those targeted have largely been representatives of civil society groups and supporters of the political opposition.
The right to freedom of expression and access to information was severely restricted in the aftermath of the elections, when authorities shut down electronic and radio communications under the pretext of preventing the spread of false information. The government should now lift all restrictions on media freedom, including the 2017 Decree on Freedom of the Press, as a crucial step towards creating an enabling environment for all to express their views without fear of violence and intimidation.
The human rights violations perpetrated in the DRC have been compounded by the impunity enjoyed by government officials and members of the security forces, including the army, presidential guard and intelligence services. A major priority for the new administration should be to investigate all human rights violations, including killings, sexual violence, abductions, arbitrary detentions and extra-judicial executions, and to ensure that all perpetrators be held accountable for their actions.
The new administration has a responsibility to ensure that the rule of law is strengthened, and freedom of expression, assembly and association upheld. If this is to happen, the new leadership must guarantee the independence of institutions that promote and protect human rights, and to ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without any interference from the state.
The CIVICUS Monitor rates the state of civic space in the Democratic Republic of Congo as Closed.