UN Chief for Human Rights warns DRC authorities on suppression of peaceful protests

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) – The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday expressed deep concern about the unending violent suppression of peaceful protests by civil society organizations and opposition political parties ahead of the electoral campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A statement issued by Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, noted that the suppression prevailed despite public commitments made by the Congolese authorities to lift the ban on demonstrations in place since 2017.

“While some improvements have been seen in crowd control and the maintenance of public order and security, the Congolese police have continued to use excessive force against political activists and demonstrators that has led to the killing of one political activist in the southeast of the country and the arrests of dozens of others,” Shamdasani said at a press briefing.

On 1 September in Lubumbashi, Haut-Kananga province, one man was killed ahead of a planned political meeting of the opposition platform ‘Ensemble pour le changement’ and, at least, nine other members of the organisation were arrested.

“We understand one of these individuals was released, while some others have been charged with rebellion, criminal association, vandalism, insulting a public agent and arson,” the spokesperson pointed out.

Also in Lubumbashi, on 3 September, police dispersed a demonstration by the citizens’ movement, ‘Luttepour le changement’ (Lucha) who were handing a petition to the provincial offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) protesting against the use of the voting machine. This was part of a nationwide protest.

At least 65 protestors were arrested in Lubumbashi, Kinshasa, Bukavu, Goma and Mbuji-Mayi. In other cities such as Beni, Butemboand Kananga, demonstrations took place without incident.

According to OHCHR, the September incidents follow the violent suppression of protests in early August in Lubumbashi and Kasumbalesa. On 2 and 6 August, security forces dispersed protestors using teargas and live ammunition, which resulted in the death of a woman and two boys aged 10 and 15. Three other people were wounded by live ammunition.

It went on to narrate that at least 55 people were arrested in Kasumbalesa and at least 34 were arrested in Lubumbashi. Of these 89 individuals, 68 remain in pre-trial detention, and have been charged with robbery, malicious destruction, incitement contempt for authorities and rebellion.

Ahead of the crucial national elections on 23 December 2018, Shamdasani stated: “We urge the Congolese authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Any allegations of excessive use of force by the police and security forces must be investigated, with a view to holding those responsible to account.

“Justice remains elusive for victims of past incidents of killings and injuries caused by the excessive and disproportionate use of force by defence and security forces in demonstrations since 2016. We reiterate our offer to support all initiatives contributing to bringing the perpetrators of these violations to justice.”
-0- PANA AR 7Sept2018

07 september 2018 17:07:05




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