41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
CIVICUS welcomes some positive first steps with regards to civic space taken by President Felix Tshisekedi during his first six months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. The President pledged, during his inauguration speech, to 'ensure that every citizen is guaranteed the respect of the exercise of their fundamental rights’, and that the government would have among its priorities the fight against impunity and the promotion of the press and the media to turn into a ‘real fourth estate’.
Despite these initial positive developments, no steps have been taken to end the widespread impunity enjoyed by state actors for human rights violations, including by security forces. Despite some noticeable improvements in the area of peaceful assembly, restrictions including the use of excessive use of force to disperse protesters, are at times still imposed.
One person was killed when police dispersed protesters during opposition protests in Kinsasha and Goma on 30 June 2019. It was reported that security forces used tear gas against protesters and some of those involved in the protests were physically assulted. Although there has been a decline in media violations, press offenses are still criminalised. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison and the sentence was later reduced to a six-month suspended sentence, in Mbandaka, Equateur province, on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.
We call on the Tshisekedi administration to take concrete and sustained measures to implement human rights commitments made and to ensure that the freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression and association are respected. This includes reviewing all restrictive legislation– notably the draft Law on Associations and the draft Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders – to bring them in line with international human rights law.
We further urge the DRC to take concrete measures to end widespread impunity by fully investigating all human rights violations and bringing those responsible swiftly to justice.