[JURIST] The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) [official website] on Tuesday urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) government to take appropriate actions to successfully abolish election-related violence [report, PDF] before the upcoming presidential election on November 28. UNJHRO reported 188 cases of human rights violations related to the electoral process during the period between November 2010 and September 2011. The fundamental rights that were violated by governmental officials such as the National Congolese Police (PNC) [official website] included freedom of expression, freedom of association, right to peaceful assembly, right to life and physical integrity, right to liberty, and security of person. Numerous incidents reported involved PNC agents threatening, beating or arresting civilian who were merely wearing T-shirts of opposition parties. Such violations also extended to journalists and human rights defenders related to the upcoming elections:
The UNJHRO urges the Government to intensify its cooperation with civil society, to issue public messages calling for State agents, especially members of the security forces, to promote and respect human rights and to fight impunity of State agents responsible for human rights violations by holding them accountable. The UNJHRO calls upon the international community to step up its efforts to support the Government of the DRC, civil society, and other stakeholders in efforts to train security forces and judicial officers on fundamental freedoms. Political parties must also issue public statements promoting peaceful participation in the electoral process and specifically call upon their supporters, especially youth, to refrain from violence and incitement thereto, and to respect and promote national laws and public order.
The UNJHRO is concerned that since the pre-electoral period was marked by violence involving human rights violations, the incidents of violence will increase as political activities intensifies. The upcoming election will be the second democratic election that the DRC will have after its first election in 2006.
The DRC has faced numerous human rights violations in the past. In June, four policemen were sentenced [JURIST report] to death for killing a prominent human rights activist. In February, a military official and his subordinates were sentenced for mass rape [JURIST report] that occurred on New Year’s Eve. In addition to human rights violations, the DRC faced some minor issues such as arresting [JURIST report] six election officials for ballot fraud but there has been no violence related to election reported.
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