DR Congo

Special Rapporteur concerned about deterioration of human rights in areas controlled by rebels in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roberto Garreton, has expressed his concern about the clear deterioration of the situation of human rights in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in areas controlled by two factions of the rebel group Rassemblement congolais pour la démocratie (RCD): le RCD-Goma and le RCD-Mouvement de Libération.

The Special Rapporteur was worried about Emmanuel Kataliko, Archbishop of Bukavu, who was arrested in Goma on 12 February by soldiers of the RCD who held him after he got off a plane and took him to Butempo instead of Bukavu where he was headed.

Archbishop Kataliko was returning from a trip to Kinshasa where he participated in the episcopal conference of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to information which was received by the Special Rapporteur, the RCD accused the Archbishop of supporting the civil disobedience movement which took place in Bukavu, the capital of the province of south Kivu, from 31 January to 6 February 2000, and of having instigated the population to ethnic violence.

The arrest of Archbishop Kataliko, with whom the Special Rapporteur met on 4 September 1999 in Bukavu and had a long conversation, is part of a climate of repression against active members of civil society in the north and south Kivu provinces. Information sent to the Special Rapporteur speaks of the harassment, arrest and detention of numerous members of human rights organizations since the beginning of the new year. In certain cases, some were submitted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment for publicly denouncing violations of human rights in territories controlled by the RCD.

In addition to these multiple obstacles to exercising the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of opinion, and free movement, the Special Rapporteur has also received alarming information concerning the systematic and massive violation of the right to life in Mwenga and the district of l'Ituri among others. If confirmed, these allegations could, according to the Special Rapporteur, be considered crimes against humanity.

The Special Rapporteur called on the two factions of the RCD to provide without delay precise information on the whereabouts of Archbishop Kataliko and why he was arrested; open an investigation on massacres carried out in areas under their control, publish its conclusions, determine the persons responsible for these massacres and try those persons by a competent court; and respect and have their troops respect the international obligations listed in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, especially article 3 which the Conventions share.

The Special Rapporteur also called on the RCD to suspend all measures which may be interpreted by the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a desire to secede from the country such as the use of a flag other than that recognized by the international community; and to take all appropriate measures to restore the freedom of opinion, expression and meetings which were necessary conditions for the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who lived in the territories controlled by the RCD to participate fully in the national dialogue as stipulated by the Lusaka Peace Agreement.