UN rights chief urges Democratic Republic of Congo to allow peaceful assembly

UN rights chief urges Democratic Republic of Congo to allow peaceful assembly

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Monday said [press release] the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) violated human rights law after a report [PDF, in French] emerged that the DRC severely restricted and violently suppressed the right to freedom of peaceful assembly since early 2017.

The report documents killings and other serious human rights violations due to the use of excessive force by security services and defense forces in relation to mass protests.

Between January 1, 2017, and January 31, 2018, “at least 47 people, including women and children, were killed by security services and defense forces in the context of demonstrations and there are indications that Congolese security services have attempted to cover up these serious human rights violations by removing the bodies of victims and obstructing the work of national and international observers.”

The report states that increasing restrictions to fundamental rights and freedoms and threats against demonstrators are cause for concern at a time when it is particularly important to create an environment conducive to peaceful elections.

Zeid stated his concern that security forces can carry out violence with almost full impunity in an effort to repress the opposition and quash dissent. Zeid urged the government to allow the exercise of the rights to peaceful assembly and expression, warning that repression would only breed frustration.

“There is an urgent need for a meaningful, transparent and independent judicial investigation into these violations and other allegations.”