DRC: “State of siege” must not further undermine human rights

 

The authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo must ensure that the “state of siege” due to begin today in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces does not further undermine human rights guaranteed under international human rights law, said Amnesty International.

The “state of siege” was declared by President Felix Tshisekedi on 3 May, citing the need to restore peace and security in the two eastern provinces where decades of armed conflicts and violence have left thousands of people dead and or forced to flee their homes.

“Whereas the DRC authorities have the responsibility to protect people from violent attacks, ‘state of siege’ emergency powers can lead to more human rights violations if abused. They must be exercised in a manner that does not lead to human rights violations, in the least restrictive way and for the shortest time possible, in line with international human rights standards,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“Amnesty International calls on the DRC authorities to ensure effective safeguards are put in place so that the extra governmental powers during the state of siege are applied only to the strictly necessary extent, are proportionate to the aims pursued and are not applied in a discriminatory manner.”

According to the presidential decree, the “state of siege” includes among others the replacement of all civil authorities, including elected governors, with military authorities with very broad powers, including the power to arrest and prosecute civilians.

“The power granted to military courts over civilians must be revoked because military courts do not guarantee the required independence and impartiality under international human rights law, in addition to failing to ensure for the operational military courts the right of defence and the right to appeal,” said Deprose Muchena

The DRC is a state party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights which does not allow any derogation from the human rights it guarantees under any circumstances.

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