Accountability for killings of protesters vital, Zeid says, as DRC crisis continues (23.12.2016)

telema

GENEVA (23 December 2016) – Reports that dozens of people have been killed by police and soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo over the past few days are deeply troubling and point to growing instability in the country, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Friday.

Over the past week, the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) has documented at least 40 killings of civilians in Kinshasa, Lumbumbashi, Boma and Matadi, mainly of people protesting against President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the official end of his mandate on 19 December. Some 107 people have been injured or ill-treated and there have been at least 460 arrests.

“Such high casualty figures suggest a serious disregard by the various police, defence and security forces of the need to exercise restraint in policing demonstrations. Not only are soldiers participating in law enforcement operations, but all the forces involved are heavily armed and using live ammunition,” Zeid said.

The High Commissioner recalled that law enforcement officials, including the military acting in that capacity, must never use firearms except against someone representing an imminent threat to life or of serious injury and only when less extreme means are insufficient.

“The failure by the DRC authorities and the security forces, to abide by their international obligations to guarantee people’s right to freedoms of expression and of association and assembly is to be deplored,” he stressed.

The violence of the past few days has not been limited to Kinshasa, Lumbumbashi and the east but has also been reported in several regions, which indicates that the political crisis is leading to wider destabilisation, Zeid noted.

“Violent repression of dissenting voices and a heavy-handed and irresponsible response to demonstrations risk provoking violence in return by demonstrators and possibly even tipping the constitutional crisis over the president’s future into further conflict across the country,” the High Commissioner warned.

The High Commissioner noted that to date no one has been held accountable for the deaths of 54 people in Kinshasa in September when the defence and security forces used excessive force against demonstrators calling for constitutional deadlines to be respected and for President Kabila to step down at the end of his second and final mandate.

“Such impunity for past violence appears to have fostered a belief among security personnel that they can open fire against demonstrators without being held accountable for their actions,” Zeid said.

The High Commissioner reiterated calls by, among others, the National Episcopal Conference (CENCO) which has been trying to mediate an accord between the opposition and the ruling party, for an independent and transparent inquiry into the recent violence.

“It is essential that all those, at whatever level, who are responsible for human rights violations are held accountable. Without such a credible response from the government, the risk is that violent situations or ongoing conflict, including between communities over resources, could degenerate further,” Zeid said.

Among the violations documented by UNJHRO:

  • On 20 December, 13 civilians were killed in Kinshasa by defence and security forces and another two people were killed on 22 December. Eleven of these killings are attributable to the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC, including six by the Military Police (MP) and one by the Republican Guard (RG). Two policemen were killed by protesters. In addition, at least 12 people were injured by defence and security forces, and at least 150 people were arrested.
  • On 20 December in Lubumbashi, at least eight men and two children were killed and at least 60 civilians were injured by the security forces. During demonstrations in Lumbumbashi on 20 December, at least 130 people were arrested. A further 145 people, including 23 minors, were arrested in their houses during search operations on 21 and 22 December
  • In Matadi, on 20 December, at least three men were killed by officers from the National Police (PNC). Five people were injured by PNC officers and FARDC soldiers, and the police arrested at least 26 people.
  • On 20 December, in Boma, 12 civilians, including three women, were killed and 12 others were wounded by PNC officers and FARDC soldiers.
  • Between 17 and 22 December, at least 102 people were arbitrarily arrested in Goma, including 24 activists from the Lucha youth movement, a journalist and 10 members of opposition political parties.
  • Eight Lucha activists were also arrested in Mbuji-Mayi by agents from the National Information Agency (ANR) on 21 December.
  • In Oicha, at least 30 people, including 16 women, were arrested by PNC officers on 19 December.

ENDS

DRC: Zeid warns of deteriorating situation, urges accountability for deadly clashes (22.09.2016)

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At least 50 people, including at least four police officers, were reportedly killed during clashes and violence in the capital Kinshasa on 19 and 20 September, and at least 77 others were injured.

GENEVA, Switzerland, September 22, 2016 – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Thursday issued a strong warning about the deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and insisted that, as part of the effort to avert a major crisis, there must be accountability for the killing of dozens of civilians and other human rights violations that took place during the outbreak of violence earlier this week.

“I am deeply saddened by the recent explosion of violence in the capital Kinshasa. The high number of civilian casualties, the burning of the headquarters of several political parties and the continuing high tension together provide a stark warning that a large-scale crisis could be just around the corner,” the High Commissioner said. “The writing is on the wall, and the authorities need to pull back from their extremely confrontational position and build bridges with the opposition.”

At least 50 people, including at least four police officers, were reportedly killed during clashes and violence in the capital Kinshasa on 19 and 20 September, and at least 77 others were injured. The figures could be much higher as verification continues.

“Some civilians were killed by gunshots to the head or chest, and I strongly condemn the clearly excessive use of force by defense and security forces against demonstrators in the capital. I am particularly shocked at reports that some men in uniform took a direct part in some of the attacks against the headquarters of six opposition political parties, including the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS) building,” Zeid said. “This is a clear assault against democracy and fundamental human rights. What DRC needs now is a climate more conducive to inclusive dialogue and to free and fair elections.”

The High Commissioner said he had also received reports that Republican Guards, ANR intelligence service and PNC (Police nationale congolaise) had conducted raids and searches of residences in some parts of the capital, preventing civilians from leaving their homes for several hours. He expressed particular concern at allegations of arbitrary detentions by police not just in Kinshasa, but also in Kisangani, Tshikapa and Goma, including of journalists trying to cover demonstrations in the capital on 19 September. According to reports, some 300 people have been arrested since Monday.

Zeid reminded the Government of its obligations to respect international standards on the use of force during demonstrations. “The deployment of Republican Guards for crowd control, despite the fact that they were heavily implicated in the excessive use of force which led to numerous casualties during the 2011 elections, is deeply worrisome, and I urge the Government to immediately withdraw them from the streets and instead deploy properly trained police forces with appropriate equipment for crowd control,” he said. The High Commissioner also regretted that no one was held to account for the serious violations committed by members of the Republican Guards and the police in the context of the 2011 elections.

“Back in July, when I visited the DRC, I noted that the country was at a pivotal moment, with tensions on the rise and crucial electoral deadlines approaching. I also warned that the political uncertainty could lead to a serious crisis and outbreak of violence. To pull back from this dangerous trajectory, a fully inclusive dialogue must be restored and all sides must exercise restraint. It is absolutely crucial to ensure full accountability for the many human rights violations that have occurred this week, through a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation.”

The High Commissioner also strongly condemned the attacks by unknown assailants against the headquarters of the ruling party, a courthouse, a school and several government buildings, including police stations, as well as other criminal acts, such as looting and destruction of private property. He stressed that the investigation should also seek to identify the people responsible for these attacks and ensure that they are held accountable, in full accordance with the law.

“My Office stands ready to bring any kind of support to the Congolese authorities in their investigations,” said Zeid.