DR Congo

Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in DR Congo condemns summary executions handed down by military court

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Roberto Garreton, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has expressed his deep consternation following the execution between 28 January and 2 February 2000 of 19 soldiers in Kinshasa.
According to the information received by the Special Rapporteur, 19 soldiers accused of murder, armed robbery or revolt had been executed hours after being sentenced to death by the Military Court (Cour d'ordre militaire). Sixty-one other persons who were sentenced to death by the Court could also be executed soon.

The Special Rapporteur was especially concerned because the executions came only six weeks after an announcement by the Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 10 December 1999 - Human Rights Day - at the closing ceremony of a seminar to elaborate a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights. The Minister had announced a moratorium applying to death sentences handed down by the Military Court.

The Minister had also reaffirmed the moratorium in a meeting with the Special Rapporteur on 27 January - one day before the executions started - in New York on the sidelines of the special meeting of the Security Council on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

According to the Special Rapporteur, the sentences handed down by the Military Court, which cannot be appealed, are unfair and incompatible with the provisions contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a party.

The Special Rapporteur was deeply dismayed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo's lack of respect of its international commitments and by the fact that 10 of the 19 executions had taken place on the day the Security Council closed its debate on the situation in the country. The debate was held from 24 to 28 January 2000. Mr. Garreton said the respect for human rights, as underlined by many of the speakers during the special meeting, was a basic element for the implementation of the provisions of the Lusaka Peace Agreement.

In light of these grave facts, the Special Rapporteur solemnly invited the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to:

1) publish the proceedings of the Military Court which led to the 19 summary executions;

2) effectively postpone carrying out all other death sentences handed down by the Military Court;

3) implement the recommendations of the seminar on the administration of justice which was jointly organized in August 1999 by the branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Ministry of Human Rights, especially those concerning the abolishment of the Military Court because of its incompatibility with pertinent international instruments;

4) and ratify as soon as possible the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which aims at abolishing capital punishment.