49th session of the Human Rights Council
Agenda Item 10: Enhanced ID on oral updates on Democratic Republic of the Congo
Statement by Nada Al- Nashif
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
29 March 2022
Geneva, Palais des Nation, Room XIX
I am pleased to provide an oral update on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in accordance with Resolution 48/20 of the Human Rights Council.
The human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has not improved significantly since the last update before this Council. It continues to be compounded by increased and persistent attacks by armed groups against civilians, notably in the eastern provinces. In 2021, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documented nearly 7,000 cases of human rights violations and abuses throughout the country. Despite the overall decrease of nearly 12% from the previous year, abuses committed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters have in fact increased. Their attacks on civilians intensified in North Kivu and Ituri, despite the state of siege in place since May 2021. In addition, there was a significant increase in attacks on civilians by the Nyatura armed group and various Maï-Maï groups in North Kivu, Tanganyika, Maniema, and South Kivu provinces.
I am particularly worried by the shrinking humanitarian space throughout conflict-affected provinces. In 2021, our office documented at least 292 incidents of violence against humanitarian actors, with seven killed, 29 injured and 25 abducted for ransom.
Violence has also particularly affected internally displaced persons. Dozens of people, including women and children, have been killed since January in attacks against IDP sites in Ituri province. Thousands of others have been forced to move to other locations. Since October 2021, there have been at least six attacks against IDP sites affecting over 68 victims. In an attack on 1 February 2022, in Mbudjonal, Djugu territory, Ituri province, 62 internally displaced people from the Hema community were killed, including 14 children and another 39 were reportedly injured, including 23 children, by fighters from the
Coopérative de développement économique du Congo (CODECO). The victims were either shot at or attacked with machetes and knives. In addition, part of the site of the Savo plain including a health centre were looted.
J'appelle les autorités de la République Démocratique du Congo à prendre des mesures fortes pour mettre un terme à cette spirale de violence, faire respecter l'État de droit et veiller à ce que les auteurs de ces graves violations des droits de l'homme et du droit international humanitaire rendent compte de leurs actes.
The état de siege imposed in Ituri and North-Kivu provinces continues to have a serious impact on the administration of justice and civic space with several members of civil society organizations and provincial assemblies arrested and detained for criticizing it. As we speak today, 13 members of the
Lutte pour le Changement who were arrested on 11 November 2021 are still being detained in Beni for organizing a sit-in in front of the Mayor's office.
On a positive note, I welcome the suppression of the Military Operational Court and efforts to support military justice in the treatment of additional cases assigned to judges. I invite the authorities to ensure that the derogations imposed under the state of siege comply with the letter and spirit of article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in light of the Human Rights Committee's General Comment No. 29.
Since October 2021, many efforts have indeed been made by the authorities of the DRC in the fight against impunity for human rights violations. At least 57 members of the Armed Forces of the DRC and the Congolese National Police, as well as at least 83 members of the armed groups, have been convicted of human rights and/or international humanitarian law violations. I welcome these developments towards sustained peace and security. I encourage the Government to ensure that all perpetrators of serious violations are held accountable, regardless of their rank or affiliation.
We have taken note of the verdict rendered on 29 January 2022 by the Military Court of Ex-Kasai Occidental, resulting in the conviction of more than 50 persons including a senior army officer, in relation to the killings of Ms. Zaida Catalán and Mr. Michael Sharp, former members of the United Nations Group of Experts on the DRC. I encourage the authorities to continue their investigations to ensure that all those involved in the murder of the two experts and individuals accompanying them are held to account. As some of the defendants were found guilty on all counts and sentenced to death, I would like to reiterate our Office's opposition to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. Noting the de facto moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty in the DRC, I call on the authorities to maintain this moratorium and to consider abolishing it in law.
I also welcome the significant progress made in managing the crisis in the Kasai region, including the establishment of a provincial Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission - however, the prioritization of serious cases by the military justice system with the support of international partners, including the UNJHRO remains key. I am concerned about the slow pace of criminal prosecutions, nearly six years after the crisis outbreak. To date, only few of the major judicial cases have passed the preliminary investigation stage. I hope that with the continued support of our Office and partners to judicial authorities, progress will be made towards the realization of the right to justice of victims.
I am similarly encouraged by the positive developments recorded in recent months in the implementation of transitional justice mechanisms throughout the territory of the DRC. Following the establishment of a Joint Committee charged with developing a national roadmap on transitional justice, popular consultations were recently launched in Kalemie, Tshikapa, Goma and Matadi, in order to assess the aspirations of the population, particularly the victims. I commend these efforts as national consultations offer a unique opportunity for victims and their communities to be heard and take part in the decisions affecting them.
As the High Commissioner has repeatedly, noted transitional justice efforts will only be useful if they are anchored in international human rights standards, placing the rights and needs of victims and their families at the center. I therefore encourage the Government to ensure that transitional justice mechanisms are in full compliance with international human rights standards.
The technical assistance team, which includes forensic experts, plays a major role in the fight against impunity and transitional justice. In addition, following the adoption of resolution 48/20 in October 2021, the mandate of the international experts was expanded to cover the entire territory. I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Mr. Bacre Ndiaye and Marie Thérèse Keita, for their dedication, expertise and professionalism in implementing this mandate.
I would also like to express my sincere appreciation to the authorities for their openness and excellent cooperation with our Office and with the international experts. Their political vision in favour of a transformative effort for justice is welcome as is the commitment to local, national and regional ownership of this important endeavour. Our Office encourages all member states to extend their full support to the important work the team of experts.
While the Congolese people are heading towards elections in 2023, the process is facing delays, including in electoral reforms, and is affected by tensions related to the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission. I call on the Government to take all measures to ensure that the process is non-violent, transparent, inclusive and credible. Efforts to widen the democratic space should continue. Important draft laws have been pending in the parliament for several years. These laws will be instrumental for a greater enjoyment of civil and political rights. The leadership of the Government is needed to ensure that they are presented during the current session of the parliament.
Against this backdrop, the country continues to witness the spread of hate speech and incitement to hostility, with the risk of widespread ethnic and political tension and violence. I welcome efforts by the authorities to prevent hate speech. I am pleased that the Sakata draft law against tribalism, racism and xenophobia has been enlisted for discussion at the National Assembly Our office will continue to implement its technical cooperation activities, including training, capacity building and support of legal reforms.
Enfin, j'aimerais attirer l'attention du Conseil des droits de l'homme sur la nécessité de soutenir davantage le Bureau des droits de l'homme en RDC pendant la mise en œuvre du plan de transition conjoint de la MONUSCO. Nous devons poursuivre nos activités de surveillance, d'établissement de rapports et d'alerte précoce tout en jouant un rôle plus important dans les programmes d'assistance technique à travers le pays.
Je vous remercie.