José Luis Diaz, Spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the High Commissioner was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continuing his first field mission. This morning he had met with President Joseph Kabila. Following his arrival in Kinshasa yesterday he had met with the country's Foreign Minister, Leonard She Okitendu, and had addressed a cross-section of NGOs, women's groups and political parties. On the High Commissioner's agenda during the Congo leg of the trip is the fate of the 30 people recently sentenced to death by the Cour d'ordre militaire. That special military court had convicted these people of participating in the killing of late President Laurent Kabila. The High Commissioner had expressed concern over the sentences and asked the Government to reconsider its decision to lift its moratorium on the application of the death penalty.
On that same subject, correspondents would find shortly a statement from the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Asma Jahangir, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iulia-Antoanella Motoc, in which they expressed concern about the death sentences. The Rapporteurs also expressed their concern at reports alleging that 15 persons had been executed recently, some of whom had reportedly been convicted by a military tribunal.
Going back to the High Commissioner's mission to Africa, Mr. Vieira de Mello would travel later today to the eastern city of Kisangani. From the DRC, the High Commissioner would go tomorrow to Angola. He had been scheduled also to visit Burundi as part of this mission but that leg of the trip had been cancelled to allow him to come back to Geneva in time for the meeting on 20 January of the Commission on Human Rights. At that meeting, the Commission would elect the bureau for its upcoming session. There was expected to be much debate at the meeting, which would take place in open session in room XVII of the Palais des Nations, starting at around 10 a.m.
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