DRC: Ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms must be addressed and accountability ensured

Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 10: Enhanced Interactive Dialogoue on the High Commissioner's report on the Democratic Republic of Congo

Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

Thank you, Madame President, and thank you High Commissioner for your report. We share your concerns on ongoing restrictions on civic freedoms. Journalists and HRDs continue to face threats, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrests, while protests have been at times met with disproportionate force.

In the past few months, under the state of emergency laws in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, three journalists - Joël Musavuli, Héritier Magayane and Barthelemy Kubanabandu Changamuka – were killed, and numerous others have received threats. Actualite.cd journalist Sosthène Kambidi was arrested by military officers last month on accusations of “criminal conspiracy, rebellion and terrorism” for being in possession of a video of the murder of two UN monitors in 2017. Kambidi was involved in a media investigation on the circumstances of those murders.

Protests are too often met with disproportionate force on the part of security forces. An opposition protest to demand the depoliticization of the national electoral commission in September 2021 was violently repressed by police officers in Kinshasa, who also beat and assaulted journalists who were covering the protest, including RFI correspondent Patient Ligodi.

Human rights defenders have been subjected to arbitrary detention and judicial harassment for their peaceful activism. LUCHA activists Elisée Lwatumba Kasonia and Eric Muhindo Muvumbu were arrested in April while calling for a strike to protest increasing insecurity. They were charged with “civil disobedience” and “threatening an attack” and released under stringent bail conditions in July. Other LUCHA activists, Parfait Muhani and Ghislain Muhiwa, have been charged with defamation, among other charges, and await trial before the Military Court.

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

To ensure sustained improvements, ending impunity for rights violations, including those against civil society, must be a priority. To this end, we call on the Council to maintain critical ongoing efforts towards accountability, including that of the team of international experts on Kasai. We further ask the High Commissioner how members and observers of this Council can best support those on the ground to prevent further civic space violations.

We thank you.

Civic space in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor


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