DRC: 500 political prisoners released under new administration but concerns persist

42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Statement during Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review report of the Democratic Republic of Congo

The Ligue des Droits de la personne dans la région des Grands Lacs (LDGL) and CIVICUS welcome the government of DRC's engagement with the UPR process. We also welcome some positive initial steps with regards to civic space taken by President Félix Tshisekedi during his first nine months in office, including his commitment to release more than 500 political prisoners. 

In our joint UPR Submission, we documented that since its last review, DRC has not implemented, nor taken any concrete steps to implement, recommendations relating to civic space. We welcome the government’s acceptance of recommendations on civic space in this UPR cycle, and look forward to their implementation, although we regret that the DRC did not accept recommendations relating to engagement with Special Procedures mandate holders. 

Press freedom in DRC is seriously hampered by restrictive legislation, which contains provisions criminalizing press offenses. Journalists are subjected to threats, intimidation, physical attacks, arbitrary arrest and judicial prosecution, with almost complete impunity. TV reporter Steeve Mwanyo Iwewe was sentenced on 1 March 2019 to one year in prison – later reduced to a six- month suspended sentence - on charges of ‘insulting authorities’ while he covered a protest of local state employees.

Under the former administration, protests were systematically banned, protesters arbitrarily arrested and often met with excessive force by security personnel, leading to hundreds of deaths. Although protests are no longer systematically banned, excessive use of force, including the use of live ammunition, is still a recurrent issue. One person was killed during opposition protests in Kinshasa and Goma on 30 June 2019.

Some restrictive draft legislation should be amended or withdrawn. The draft law on the protection of HRDs contains restrictive provisions and limitations that are not in line with the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The draft modifying the Law on Associations would restrict civic space if approved in its current state. 

Mr President, the DRC’s UPR review provides an opportunity for the DRC to put into practice its promises. LDGL and CIVICUS call on the Government of DRC to take proactive measures to implement recommendations relating to create and maintain, in law and in practice, an enabling environment for civil society.

 

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