Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): UN rights experts urge end to ‘unjustified’ ban on protests (03.11.2016)

DRC Kinshasa 26.05.2016 Peaceful Protest P1

The ban was imposed in September after a series of large demonstrations that were brutally supressed by security forces, reportedly leaving dozens of people dead and injured.

GENEVA, Switzerland, November 3, 2016 – A group of United Nations human rights experts* has called on authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to lift an “unjustified” ban on protests in the capital, Kinshasa, amid social discontent over delayed presidential elections.
The ban was imposed in September after a series of large demonstrations that were brutally supressed by security forces, reportedly leaving dozens of people dead and injured.

“The rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are fundamental rights guaranteed by international law. These rights can only be restricted in very specific and narrowly defined circumstances,” the experts said.

“It is clear that the current situation in the DRC does not justify a general ban on demonstrations in several cities,” they noted. “In fact, given that the country is in a hotly disputed election period, people should be given more space, not less, to express their democratic freedoms.”

Since the ban on protests in Kinshasa took effect on 22 September, at least four demonstrations have been cancelled.

The UN experts have also raised fears over the National Dialogue agreement which took effect in October, postponing presidential elections beyond the constitutional deadline.

The agreement could be used to justify new and unacceptable restrictions on the legitimate activities of civil society organizations, violating their right to freedom of association, the experts warned.

“The protest ban and the restrictive tone of the National Dialogue agreement are both disturbing signs that democratic space is rapidly dissipating in the DRC, with human rights organizations and opposition parties bearing the brunt of the repression,” the independent experts said.

“In view of forthcoming demonstrations, in particular those planned for 5 November, we urge the Congolese authorities to revoke its decision to ban demonstrations,” they stated.

“The DRC is obligated to facilitate assembly and association rights and to protect people who exercise these rights,” the experts noted. “It is of the utmost importance that the country allows the development of an inclusive and participatory civil society sector at this critical juncture in the development of its democracy.”

The ban is the fourth of its kind in the DRC since 2015. Two remain in force, affecting Kalemie in Tanganyika province and Lubumbashi in Haut Katang.

The crackdown on protests in Kinshasa in September prompted an earlier statement from the experts, who condemned the authorities’ repeated use of “excessive force”, which included firing tear gas and live ammunition into crowds of protesters (check the September 2016 statement:

(*) The experts: Mr Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

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Statement attributable to the Spokesman of the Secretary-General on the Democratic Republic of the Congo [scroll down for the French version] (19.10.2016)


The Secretary-General takes note of the conclusion of the national dialogue in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He commends Edem Kodjo, the African Union Facilitator for the dialogue, as well as participants to the talks for their work and commitment towards a peaceful solution to the crisis in the context of the electoral process.

The Secretary-General hopes that the implementation of the agreement will contribute to a more conducive climate for the respect of fundamental rights and freedoms essential to political debate and credible elections. He urges the Government to remain actively engaged with all political stakeholders, including through continued confidence-building measures. These include in particular the further release of political prisoners and respect for the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. He also calls on political groups who were not part of the national dialogue to seek to resolve their differences peacefully.

The Secretary-General reiterates the crucial importance of peaceful and credible elections for the stabilization and consolidation of constitutional democracy in the DRC, in keeping with the Constitution and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Déclaration attribuable au porte-parole du Secrétaire général sur la République démocratique du Congo

Le Secrétaire général prend note de la conclusion du dialogue national en République démocratique du Congo (RDC). Il félicite Edem Kodjo, le facilitateur de l’Union africaine pour le dialogue, ainsi que les participants aux pourparlers pour leur travail et leur engagement envers une solution pacifique à la crise dans le contexte du processus électoral.

Le Secrétaire général espère que la mise en œuvre de l’accord contribuera à un climat plus propice au respect des libertés et droits fondamentaux essentiels au débat politique et à des élections crédibles. Il exhorte le gouvernement à rester activement engagé avec tous les acteurs politiques, notamment en continuant d’adopter des mesures de confiance. Celles-ci comprennent en particulier de nouvelles libérations de prisonniers politiques et le respect du droit de réunion pacifique et de la liberté d’expression. Il appelle également les groupes politiques qui ne faisaient pas partie du dialogue national à s’employer à résoudre leurs différends de manière pacifique.

Le Secrétaire général réaffirme l’importance cruciale d’élections apaisées et crédibles pour la stabilisation et la consolidation de la démocratie constitutionnelle en RDC, conformément à la Constitution et à la Charte africaine de la Démocratie, des Elections et de la Gouvernance.

New York, le 19 octobre 2016

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