HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Author: Aman Tiwari, IV year of B.A.,LL.B from Delhi Metropolitan Education Noida, affiliated to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University Delhi.
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo” is a powerful country with a strong central government. The president along with the lower house of the Parliament are elected by people (National Assembly). In the month of December on 30th during the year 2018, presidential, parliamentary, and provincial are the three elections which were conducted after a two-year hiatus.
Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the victor during 2018 presidential election by the “National Independent Electoral Commission” on January 10, 2019. The 2018 election was marked by irregularities, which were condemned by several spectators.
Congolese National Police, is in charge of law enforcement and public order. The National Intelligence Agency, which is controlled by the president, is in charge of both internal and foreign intelligence. The Ministry of Defense oversees the “Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”, as well as the intelligence service provided by the military. They are primarily responsible for foreign security, although they are virtually entirely focused on domestic security. The Republican Guard is overseen by the presidency, while the Directorate General for Migration is overseen by the Ministry of Interior. Congolese National Police along with the Directorate General for Migration, is in charge of border control. The authorities which look after the civilians didn’t have the power over security personnel. Numerous violations were committed by members who were in the security forces.
“Unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearances; torture and cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the judiciary's independence; arbitrary or unlawful invasion of privacy; serious abuses in an internal conflict, including the killing of civilians. Severe restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests of journalists, censorship, and criminal libel; interference with the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of association; serious acts of official corruption; lack of investigation and accountability for violence against women; trafficking in persons; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities, members of national minorities, and members of national minorities.”
Although numerous human rights violations went unpunished, the government took certain measures to spot, probe, take legal action, and penalize bureaucrats who executed them. Authorities, particularly at higher levels, frequently failed to investigate, convict, or punish individuals who were guilty. Some government officials were convicted of unlawful death, sexual assault, cruelty, arbitrary imprisonment, and bribery, while law enforcement officers who executed atrocities were occasionally punished.
In Kasai area and particularly in restive eastern region illegal armed groups and government security personal continued to abuse their power over people. Torture, unlawful killings, damage to government, personal estate, disappearances and gender-based violence were among the violations. Child soldiers and forced labour were also recruited, abducted, and held by illegal armed organizations. Military action was taken against certain unlawful armed organizations, and some armed group members were investigated and punished for human rights violations.
As a result of COVID-19 limitations, poor households experienced greater food insecurity, while jails were persistently overcrowded. Armed conflicts and intercommunal violence persisted in certain regions, killing hundreds and displacing hundreds of thousands of people. For egregious human rights abuses like as extrajudicial murders and summary executions, government troops and armed groups have continued to enjoy impunity. Sexual violence against women has escalated as a result of the conflict. The administration continues to stifle “Freedom of speech and the press”. Journalists have been imprisoned, and human rights activists have been threatened with death and prosecuted.
The situation with regards to constitutional rights persisted severe, along with conflicts happening in the ruling coalition. A surge of hostility, mainly in several parts of the country, consisting of armed groups along with neighboring countries, has intensified the humanitarian situation. In provinces of South Kivu, North Kivu, Tanganyika and Ituri thousands of armed group soldiers surrendered themselves early this year. The government's attention was diverted away from disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programmes as a result of its concentration on COVID-19 and other illnesses.
The President announced steps to combat the COVID-19 epidemic on March 18th, including travel limitations, closing of borders, and disallowing of gatherings of more than 20 individuals. The President declared a state of emergency for 30 days on March 24, which was prolonged till 23rd of April and approved by the Parliament and the Court. It was lifted on 22nd of July, following a slowing in COVID-19 deaths and cases in late June, and limitations were gradually eased.
New appointments to the army and the court have been made, but neither institution's behavior changed much, creating a serious barrier to human rights protection.
On November 23, a military court in North Kivu condemned military leader “Ntabo Ntaberi alias Sheka”, the commander of “Nduma Defense of Congo”, and sentenced him for life imprisonment for committing severe offence against the general public perpetrated in North Kivu in the year 2007 till 2017. 400 men, women and children were charged with rape in the year 2010. A representative of Rwanda's Democratic Forces for Liberation was also given the death penalty. After a two-year trial in which 178 victims took part, two Sheka accomplices were penalized for 15 years in jail.
As of November 7, 2020, doctors of Congolese have documented more than over 11,500 Corona virus infections in 22 regions, with 315 deaths. Given the restricted testing capability, the number of instances is likely to be greater. State emergency was declared at Congolese during the period of March 24th till August 15th in order to stop the virus from spreading. The Schools, bars, and worship place along with restaurants were shut down, as were borders, big gatherings, and schools, restaurants, and bars. Around 19 million students were impacted by school closures. On March 30, police opened fire at the people of “Bundu dia Kongo politico-religious organization” which was involved at marching in Kinshasa to "chase the spirit of the coronavirus," according to a UN source. At least three people were killed, and 11 others were injured. Because to Covid-19 travel limitations, the government also ordered the mining companies to halt limiting personnel on the job on July 14.
RIGHT TO HEALTH
The virus imposed severe burden on the health system that was already underfunded and overburdened, as well as poorly compensated health personnel who were simultaneously dealing with other outbreaks of diseases.
The government of United States supplied fifty oxygen support systems to the government of the DRC to aid in the fight against the outbreak. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and fatalities had grown at the end. During the mid-year, virus rate had dropped. In 2018 tenth Ebola pandemic began and had killed at least 2,287 and infected at least 3,470 individuals, while 6,000 peoples were killed during measles outbreak.
RIGHT TO EDUCATION
The administration shuttered schools, colleges, in the month of March 19, affecting around 27 million pupils. Many children were exposed to the possibility of being recruited into military organizations, as well as can be the victim of sexual assault, child marriage, and child labor, as a result of school closures. On August 10th, schools reopened.
Thousands of children's educations have been disrupted as a result of armed wars.
RIGHTS: ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
Low-income households were harmed by COVID-19-related lockdowns and other limitations, while the government took steps to ameliorate the situation by providing vital services including electricity & water. Houses in rural and urban areas, as well as those in border regions, lost major sources of income as necessity for sector employees and those engaged in cross border commerce fell.
In mining business, enforcement of environmental and labor regulations has been failed which was done by the government, exposing many employees to hazardous substances and causing birth abnormalities in the children. Without basic equipment such as face mask and gloves, women, men and children are working in certain mines. They also had lung infections and urinary tract infections, among other health issues. Child labour was often used, as they were forced to do mining operations, no transparency was awarded in mining rights, bribery and tariff fraud.
DISAPPROPRIATE USE OF FORCE
Pandemic prohibit people to gather together, security officers used excessive force to disperse peaceful protests. Protests erupted in a number of areas on July 9 in response to the selection of President of Electoral Commission. In reaction to the mainly peaceful protests, police used disproportionate power, resulting in death of one demonstrator. A lot more people were harmed due to the incident.
FORCE USED BY GOVERNMENT AND ARMED GROUP FOR ATTACKING ON CIVILIANS
According to “United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,” around 13,00 people were killed by the armed groups of the non-state including the government troops between October 2019 and June 2020. Along with this, more than hundred people were slaughtered during the middle of the year.
“More than 130 armed groups attacked citizens in the eastern Congo districts of North Kivu, South Kivu, and Ituri. Among the militia associations were the mainly ethnic Lendu Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO), the largely Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), the Nduma Defense of Congo-Renové (NDC-R), the largely Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and allied Congolese Nyatura groups, the Mazembe and Yakutumba Mai Mai militia groups, and several Burundian armed groups. Many of its leaders have been charged with war crimes such as ethnic cleansing, rape, forced child recruitment, and pillaging.”
Due to tension in the regions of South Kivu's, many people were murdered between the month of February 2019 to June 2020.
There have been several claims that the government or its agents have killed people in an arbitrary or criminal manner. The Military tribunals helped to determine the killings done by the security force and also the killings were admissible and also prosecuted those who were.
Hundreds of people have died due to armed warfare in regions of South Kivu, North Kivu, and Ituri. Millions of people were forced to evacuate their places as a result of armed group attacks. According to the UNJHRO, militants of armed factions conducted killings in middle of the year, killing individuals, women as well as children.
“The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)”, military organization running operation in the “Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda”, was responsible for a spike in violence year after authorities conducted preventative assaults against the group. The ADF massacred many civilians in territory of Irumu, on May 25 and 26. They are also suspected of killing seven civilians on August 15 and 58 persons in raids in the region.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the year, troops were accused of murdering 14 people and wounding 49 others. They also detained and arrested 297 people without cause.
In the month of March and June, provoked militia strikes in Ituri murdered hundreds of civilians and displaced over 200,000 people. The majority of the killings were committed by Lendu militants, while most of the victims were from Hema and residents of Alur.
In Ituri, allegations of inter-communal confrontations began between the Alur and Hema groups in May and June. At least 100 individuals were killed in Tanganyika province during clashes between the Twa and Bantu populations.
BRUTALITY FACED BY GIRLS AND WOMEN
Sexual exploitations of girls and women has risen, notably due to the conflict in eastern area. Groups attacked women and men along with children and 97 incidents have been recorded by the UNJHRO in May up from 53 in April. While armed organizations were the major perpetrators, there was an increase in sexual assault which were reported between April and May by state security forces.
Across the country, extrajudicial executions were still common. Military organizations were accountable for the bulk of the killings, agents working for the state were also involved, especially in conflict-affected regions. According to the UNJHRO, agents were responsible for killing couple of hundred individuals in the first half of the year, including 33 women and 18 children.
There were at least 55 extrajudicial murders by security personnel in July alone, with about 11 of them being women and two children. Armed organizations killed 248 individuals in the same time period, including 34 women and 11 children. For these and other human rights breaches and atrocities, state authorities and armed group combatants were seldom convicted. Lack of resources and judicial independence remained significant impediments to achieving accountability.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Members working for the media were bullied by the authorities. They accused journalists and news organizations of upsetting the public order and violating professional ethics. Several journalists have been detained on false charges.
Hundreds of people have been harassed and intimidated as a result of their criticism of government policy, especially on social media. They were attacked, imprisoned, and convicted in certain circumstances. Authorities have intimidated and harassed journalists around the country, and the government has ordered the shutdown of specific television programmes or outlets. During the time of state emergency in order to prevent the spread of virus the security used force against the protesters.
“Dek'son Assani Kamango, Journalist of Radio Omega”, was detained on 7 February on charges of "insulting the Maniema provincial administration." “Christine Tshibuyi, a Kinshasa-based reporter”, got threat calls on May 9 when he published a piece on attacks on journalists in Kasai Oriental province's Mbuji-Mayi town. A four-wheel-drive vehicle identical to the Guard of Republican smashed into the car on the same day, leading her to crash into a wall. A guy smacked her across the face, causing her to bleed. He was accompanied by four security officials. She stated that she reported the event to authorities, but that no inquiry was conducted.
Both state officials and armed organizations have threatened, intimidated, arrested, and detained human rights advocates. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Nobel Laureate, has received death threats as a result of his support for severe criminal punishment.
The administration of Mongala withdrew the credentials of 13 journalists on June 17, five radio stations were ordered to be temporary closed and halted the transmission of various political television and radio programmes.
Although international community along with the government took steps to prevent it, the judicial system of Congolese didn’t stop prosecuting war criminals. While tens of thousands of offenders have perpetrated heinous crimes in the DRC, just 12 prosecutions who committed the crimes have been held in military courts.
“Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), said in 2004 that he had decided to begin an investigation into crimes allegedly executed in the DRC since the Rome Statute of the ICC took effect on July 1, 2002. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, Germain Katanga, Mathieu Ngudjolo Chui, and, most recently, Callixte Mbarushimana have all been apprehended, but Bosco Ntaganda is still on the loose”.
Children who are under the age of 15 years are being enlisted and conscripted and used by Lubanga Dyilo to actively participate in hostilities is still in trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Katanga along with Ngudjolo Chui were charged for various heinous crimes against the individuals, and for promoting child labor before the International Criminal Court.
When the Indigenous Twa people were forcibly evacuated from the “Kahuzi Biega National Park”, authorities failed to uphold their commitments. The community has been evacuated in waves since 1975, despite promises of comparable replacement land, educational and job opportunities, health facilities, and the release of community members imprisoned for invading the Park. Meanwhile, the discussions which were going on between Park authorities and representatives of Twa for over different land for the town have come to a halt.
Twa men and women were held responsible of unlawful actions in the Park in February, including key negotiator Chief Jean-Marie Kasula. Their trial in front of the tribunal was not a fair trial and hence they were prosecuted for 15 years’ imprisonment. In August, 4 out of 8 were freed on bond from jail. During the year end, their convictions had not been overturned on appeal.
The UNJHRO is divided into various specialized sections:
“The Transitional Justice and Fight Against Impunity Unit” is in charge of supervising the administration of justice and prosecuting those who commit grave human rights abuses.
The division of “Training, Institution Building, and Awareness (TIBA)” assists society organizations in filing complaints and requests with government agencies in response to human rights abuses.
In collaboration with the Field Offices, the Reporting and Investigations Unit conducts in-depth investigations of significant human rights abuses, particularly in remote parts of the DRC. It also manages a human rights database and is in charge of data gathering and analysis, report preparation, and database administration.
“The Strategic Planning and Project Support Unit” ensures that the UNJHRO's planning is carried out in accordance with its priorities. It also helps the UNJHRO with its programmes and operations.
Under immediate threat, the Protection Unit seeks to protect the people from different backgrounds. Also the Protection Funds are managed by the Protection Unit.
“The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) was established in February 2008 by the MONUSCO Human Rights Division (HRD) and the former Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (OHCHR/DRC).” The two offices have been fully integrated, and the UNJHRO currently fulfils its respective mandates. “The United Nations Security Council (Resolutions 1756 of 15 May 2007, 1794 of 21 December 2007, and 1856 of 22 December 2008)” mandated the “MONUSCO Human Rights Division (HRD)” so that more protection and promotion can be provided to the humans, majorly to the children, women and also the vulnerable groups. It also focused to keep a check on violations done so that it can be stopped and justice can prevail leading to development and implementation of strategy.
“The OHCHR/DRC was established in 1996 by an agreement between the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to monitor the country's human rights situation, present reports on human rights violations requiring urgent intervention by any of the thematic Independent Experts, and strengthen national institutions (both governmental and non-governmental) working on human rights issues to ensure that the DRC increases its human rights protection.”
On December 23, 2009, the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly approved “Resolution 1906 (2009),” and also extended the mission of MONUC till 31 May, 2010. The resolution came to the conclusion that long term peace in the country is not possible until state security forces strengthen their respect for human rights. Because almost every word of the resolution references human rights, it offers up potential for improving the respect in the country for human rights and also puts pressure on UNHJRO to help the government and MONUC to reach the mandate.
ASSISTING ON POSITIVE CHANGE
To battle five of the most pervasive and the most serious human rights abuses in country, the UNJHRO launched a new work approach during 2009. Five Task Forces (TFs) was formed as an outcome of this new approach and each one concentrating on one of the five main areas outlined below: Violations of economic rights/illegal mining; arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions and disappearances; discrimination of sex; arbitrary executions; Torture leading to deaths in imprisonment.
The UNJHRO's day-to-day operations are organized under these Task Forces. Task Force is made up of members from specialized groups who work together to devise plans to increase the level of constitutional rights.
In order to promote foreign community initiatives implemented in the provinces, worldwide strategy to help sufferers and the people who have faced violence is developed which includes:
Torture victims Funds;
Justice Provided to the Victims of Sexual Violence;
Protection Funds for the Victims, along with the witnesses and the defenders of human rights.
The main principle was to provide steps to the civilians in the country encouraging them to report the breaches of human rights to the concerned authorities which will eventually help to strengthen ability of government to help the civilians. This can be achieved by helping the citizen know about their rights, providing space for their complaints, giving power to the civil society to educate civilians about human rights, adopting strategies that will enhance the awareness about rights and obligation of the people and also promoting government’s power to fix the issues and encouraging to take actions.
The everyday activities involve the reporting of violations caused to the humans and then assisting to use the remedies. In order to combat impunity, the UNJHRO collaborates with government in order to improve the overall situation by enacting policies that help to achieve the International Norms. The UNJHRO's methodology was based on former similar project best practices, as well as strategies and work plans developed by the “UNJHRO's Task Forces, Units, and Field Teams.”
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION AND HOW IT COMBAT TO GIVE JUSTICE
Through a wide network of collaborators, the Officers collect data on accusations of Constitutional rights breaches and by correlating information obtained during field operations, the Officers authenticate claims and comment on Constitutional rights breaches. To counteract threats, the UNJHRO has established procedures to safeguard victims and witnesses in collaboration with its network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The UNJHRO concentrates on situations that are outside the scope of other actors' capabilities. Cases which were presented before the court, and the status of every case is kept track of. UNJHRO also works to ensure that criminal procedure is followed and that detention facility conditions are improved.
HOW THE STATE PREVENTED HUMAN RIGHT VIOLATIONS?
The UNJHRO provided judicial authorities and partners for prosecuting the cases logically and technically. Financial assistance was also offered in order to improve the countrywide access to Justice Program. Furthermore, the UNJHRO also works with institutions and the state, to enhance their capacity to hear citizen complaints through the parliamentary network for human rights. “The Protection Unit” helps to provide safety to the individuals belonging to different background.
It is clearly evident that the country faced a lot of violations and conflicts that were done by the armed troops which influenced the major situation throughout the period. The forces in the country influenced the people and led to a lot of violation in the western portion of the country. The basic rights under the constitution was not provided to the humans and they were treated dreadfully. Excessive force was used by the agents leading to death of the civilians. Women, Children and everyone around the country was brutality harassed and was not provided the basic living.