Report on Human Rights violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the context of the events of 19 December 2016

This report was prepared by the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) and is jointly released by the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The report highlights human rights violations that were committed by defence and security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) between 15 and 31 December 2016, in the context of the events surrounding the date of 19 December 2016, marking the end of President Joseph Kabila Kabange’s second and last constitutional mandate. The report also includes allegations received by UNJHRO of acts of criminality committed by demonstrators.

Between 15 and 31 December 2016, UNJHRO documented the killing of at least 40 people, including five women and two children, and the wounding of 147 individuals, including 14 women and 18 children, as a result of the disproportionate use of force and the use of live ammunition by defence and security forces, mainly soldiers of Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC), to prevent civilians from protesting. While the Police nationale congolaise (PNC) is normally in charge of crowd control operations, during the period under review, FARDC soldiers, including those of the Republican Guard (Garde républicaine) and of the Military Police (Police militaire), were deployed to control crowds, functions for which they are not adequately equipped nor trained. During that same period, at least 917 individuals, including 30 women and 95 children, were arrested by State agents throughout the territory. UNJHRO was not able to verify all of the allegations received since it was denied access to several military facilities and camps as well as hospitals and morgues. Therefore, the actual number of victims of violations may be higher than what is presented in this report.

The actions by the Congolese authorities were executed through disproportionate and illegal restrictions of public freedoms, including the right to freedoms of expression, information and peaceful assembly, in contravention with both international human rights standards and the provisions of the Constitution of the DRC. The human rights violations documented during this period demonstrate the persistent trend of shrinking democratic space in the DRC since January 2015.

The JHRO raises serious concerns about the absence of measures taken against perpetrators of human rights violations committed in the DRC in recent months in relation to the political tensions around the electoral process, which contributes to a culture of impunity, and which may have encouraged the defence and security forces to commit violations in the period detailed in this report. The report provides information on human rights violations over the period 15 to 28 December 2016, and concludes with a series of recommendations aimed at supporting the Government in improving respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms, contributing to the development of an environment conducive to the holding of free, inclusive and peaceful elections in the DRC.