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Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of her Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (A/HRC/19/48)

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The Human Rights Council, in its resolution 16/35, invited the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report to its nineteenth session. In line with her two previous reports, the present report outlines the main human rights developments and describes the activities of her Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It reiterates some of the most important recommendations made by several United Nations human rights mechanisms and assesses the progress made by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in implementing these recommendations.

The High Commissioner commends the Government’s efforts to implement some of the recommendations made by her Office and by other human rights mechanisms with a view to fighting impunity, strengthening State institutions and improving the human rights situation in the country. However, she regrets that, throughout 2011, there was little improvement in the situation of the population. Her Office continues to document serious human rights violations, in particular in the east of the country.

The report highlights the root causes for the persistence of human rights violations within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The structural weaknesses of State institutions, in particular the judicial system and security forces, together with practices of corruption and the presence of armed groups, result in impunity and foster systemic human rights violations. These include arbitrary and summary executions, arbitrary and illegal arrests and detentions, ill-treatment, torture, sexual violence and looting. Prisoners are often detained in conditions susceptible to ill-treatment and torture, and the death rate in detention continues to be high. The High Commissioner further notes with particular preoccupation that the number of cases of sexual violence remains high and that several incidents of mass rapes took place during the reporting period. The enjoyment of socioeconomic rights is also structurally impeded.

In the run-up to the presidential and legislative elections of 2011, the High Commissioner’s Office noted a concerning number of human rights violations committed against political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders, who continue to face various threats and are victims of human rights violations, including arbitrary and illegal arrest and detention. The Office found that the majority of these violations were committed by security forces, manipulated by political actors. However, the High Commissioner welcomes the initiatives taken by the Government to protect public liberties, such as through the establishment of the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel et de la Communication (CSAC) and the announcement of the creation of a protection cell for human rights defenders. She hopes that such mechanisms become fully operational and effective as soon as possible.

The High Commissioner notes with satisfaction that there has been some improvement in bringing soldiers, agents and officers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and of the Congolese National Police (PNC) to justice. She notes with grave concern the staggering number of cases of sexual and gender-based violence and calls for a doubling of efforts to ensure continued progress in this area. She also commends the adoption of the law explicitly criminalizing torture.

However, other necessary reform initiatives in the penitentiary and judicial systems have either stalled or are poorly and inconsistently implemented. In this respect, the High Commissioner observes that the root causes of human rights violations impede, at the same time, the implementation of the recommendations made in her previous reports.

The High Commissioner therefore stresses the urgent need to implement a coherent series of measures for the implementation of all the recommendations. Throughout this process, the Government should actively cooperate with the international community and Congolese civil society. The High Commissioner and her Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will continue to support the Government in this undertaking.