In its resolution 19/27, the Human Rights Council invited the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to submit a report to the Council at its twenty-fourth session on the situation of human rights and the activities of her Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the present report, which covers the period from November 2011 to May 2013, the High Commissioner assesses the progress made by the authorities in the implementation of recommendations made by the High Commissioner and United Nations human rights mechanisms in recent years.
The High Commissioner commends the efforts made by Congolese authorities to address such recommendations, which resulted in important developments in the field of human rights, including the promulgation of a law on the establishment of a national human rights commission. The High Commissioner also notes with satisfaction the improvements in holding State agents accountable for human rights violations, including sexual violence, such as elements of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and of the Congolese National Police, many of whom were convicted during the period under review. There were several other significant developments during the reporting period, including, in March 2013, the surrender to the International Criminal Court of General Bosco Ntaganda, accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Despite the above-mentioned efforts, the High Commissioner notes that the situation of human rights had significantly deteriorated since her previous report to the Council (A/HRC/19/48), especially in the eastern part of the country, where the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office Joint Human Rights Office documented an important increase in the number of human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law that could amount to war crimes, committed by national security and defence forces, as well as by foreign and national armed groups.
The increase in gross human rights violations during the period under review can be attributed to various armed groups, including Mouvement du 23 mars (M23), and to the security and defence forces, in relation to M23 activities. M23 combatants were indeed responsible for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including summary executions, rape and child recruitment. Other armed groups, which took advantage of the security vacuum that followed the redeployment of FARDC units to combat M23, since May 2012, were also responsible for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law. Such groups have sought to extend their influence and control over areas rich in natural resources in the eastern part of the country, committing attacks against civilians, often on ethnic grounds. In addition, in the context of operations against M23, members of the Congolese defence and security forces allegedly committed gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, including mass rape.
The presidential and legislative elections held in November 2011were characterized by acts of violence and serious human rights violations, apparently committed mostly by members of the Congolese defence and security forces against opposition party members and supporters. While judicial authorities initiated investigations into some election-related human rights violations, little progress was observed with regard to the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators. In addition, human rights defenders and journalists were threatened, arbitrarily arrested and subjected to other human rights violations during the election period. The judiciary’s lack of independence continued to be observed, in particular when dealing with cases of human rights violations against political opponents and civil society members.
The High Commissioner encourages the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to implement all the recommendations made in the present report and reiterates the engagement of her Office in the State to support its efforts to protect and promote human rights.