Human Rights and Democracy Report 2015 - Human Rights Priority Country update report: January to June 2016 - Democratic Republic of the Congo

Updated 21 July 2016

The human rights situation in the DRC worsened in the first 6 months of 2016 compared to the previous period. Abuses and violations of human rights continued at a higher rate throughout the reporting period, particularly by state agents. The issue of an arrest warrant for Presidential candidate, Moise Katumbi, was deeply concerning and emblematic of the growing instrumentalisation of justice in the DRC. The main state perpetrators of human rights violations were the Congolese National Police (PNC), the intelligence agency (ANR) and the DRC army (FARDC). The main non-state perpetrators of human rights abuses were armed groups, principally in the east of the country.

The continued rise in the role of the state in human rights violations is deeply concerning. In the month of May, the UN Joint Human Rights Office (JHRO) recorded that state agents were responsible for 67% of all human rights violations. This compares to 33% committed by armed groups. Of the state agents, the PNC were responsible for the majority of abuses, with 141 recorded violations attributable to them in May. The FARDC were also responsible for human rights violations. The majority of violations committed by the FARDC related to physical integrity and the right to liberty and security of the person.

Elections, constitutionally due by the end of 2016, look increasingly unlikely to be held on time due to a lack of political will. Associated with this, there has been growing pressure on civil society, media and certain political figures who have been peacefully protesting against this delay. The issue of the arrest warrant for Moise Katumbi on allegations of funding foreign mercenaries is troubling as it shows the DRC government’s lack of tolerance towards viable political opposition. On 13 May, he was exposed to tear gas fired by police and injured during clashes between police and protestors when entering the court building. In a separate case, the district court in Lubumbashi sentenced him in absentia to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of $1 million for forgery.

The DRC government has restricted opposition rallies. In May, at least 30 demonstrations organised by opposition political parties or civil society were banned or repressed by the authorities, while at least 12 demonstrations, including 3 organised by the Presidential Majority (the ruling political coalition), were carried out without incident.

The police clampdown on demonstrations relating to the electoral process continued across the country, including in Goma, Beni and Mbandaka. 101 demonstrators were arrested on or before protests on 26 May and 9 remain in detention (including two minors). One police officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison for firing live ammunition during demonstrations in Mbandaka. Nine members of the opposition coalition, G7, received custodial sentences of between 5 and 10 years for rebellion and robbery. On 24 April, the police in Lubumbashi dispersed a G7 rally and arrested 35 supporters.

We are closely following the case of Jean Marie Kalonji, coordinator of a civil society organisation “The Fourth Way Movement”. He was kidnapped by armed men in December 2015 and subsequently found in a holding cell of the ANR. He is due to appear in court in the coming weeks. We see this case as emblematic of the DRC government’s intimidation of the population when they engage in peaceful political opposition. In a similar vein, we continue to monitor the case of Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala and press for their release.

The majority of human rights offences occurred in the east of the country, with particularly high numbers of violations and abuses in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Armed groups were responsible for a number of abuses here, particularly lootings (the right to property), but also cases of sexual violence and forced labour.

Massacres of civilians have continued in eastern DRC by armed groups, including well-publicised cases in Beni and Eringeti. On the night of 3 May, forces attacked part of Eringeti town. The perpetrators were presumed to be members of the ADF, an armed group. The UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, has confirmed that 17 civilians were killed, mostly by machete. Among them were 10 women, 3 girls, one boy and 3 men, including the local chief. Of the 10 women killed, 3 were pregnant. Three victims were tied up before being executed. Two days after the attack, 4 other bodies were discovered at Tingwe, in north Erengeti, bringing the total to 21 civilians killed. On the night of 6 May, there was another attack on a village just outside Erengeti. Another 13 civilians were reported killed. On 10 May, there were further skirmishes reported around Erengeti, in which at least one civilian was killed. On 9 June, 3 high school students of the Hutu community were confronted by suspected members of a Nande Mai Mai militia group in Kishishe, a village in North Kivu. They shot and killed 2 of the students and burned alive the other, eating his flesh. In response, MONUSCO has reinforced its Beni office to further investigate these killings and ensure that they are better placed to respond. The British Embassy Office in Goma will continue to monitor this situation and work with partners, including the UN, to reduce the risk of such incidences happening again.

On 21 June, a provincial deputy, Frederic Batumike, was arrested. Batumike is thought to be responsible for a series of rapes, known collectively as the Kavumu rapes. The Kavumu rapes were first reported in 2013 when the UN started receiving reports of babies and young girls being taken from their huts at night (or when alone in the day) and raped. These horrific crimes led to the UN establishing a task force in Bukavu in 2014, and this was reinforced by the visit to the area of Jeanine Mabunda, the DRC President’s Personal Representative on the Fight Against Sexual Violence and Child Recruitment. There was little further progress, until this arrest on 21 June. The UK will follow this case closely as a key test of the DRC authorities’ response to acts of sexual violence. The UK will support the judicial process to ensure those responsible for these heinous acts face consequences for their actions.

In June, the DRC released its inquiry into “Operation Likofi”, a 2013 police operation which aimed to reduce gang crime, but led to a number of extra-judicial killings and executions. While we are pleased that the DRC government published this report, it does not recognise the full extent of human rights violations that occurred under the aegis of this operation, nor call for most of the perpetrators to face justice. The report appears to shift the responsibility for provision of proof onto (among others) international NGOs rather than the police service itself. There still appears to be a lack of credible investigation into the allegations of summary executions and enforced disappearances; no one has been held accountable for the crimes and the responsibility of senior police officers involved has been ignored. We will continue to advocate the importance of ensuring that senior officers involved face justice, and will maintain our messaging on the importance of personal responsibility for those responsible for acts of repression and human rights violations and abuses.