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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/democratic-republic-of-the-congo-drc-country-of-concern/democratic-republic-of-the-congo-drc-country-of-concern-latest-update-31-march-2014
Human rights issues in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continue to give cause for concern, with no marked improvement seen during the period January to March 2014.
Fighting in eastern DRC between the DRC armed forces and armed groups continues to cause the displacement of many people as civilians move to avoid the violence and shelling. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that there are around 2.9 million internally displaced people in DRC, representing an increase of 700,000 on the same period last year.
The Department for International Development (DFID) is working locally with a range of NGOs to provide programmes which respond quickly to the humanitarian impact of conflict such as displacement, epidemics and spikes in malnutrition. However, the best way to improve the human rights situation in the DRC is through continued work to stabilise the region, reduce conflict, and ensure that there is no culture of impunity in the aftermath of conflict – these, after all, are the conditions that lead to many of the human rights abuses and violations in the first place.
On 28 March, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) for a further year. The overarching objective of the mission is to ensure the protection of civilians. With the adoption of resolution 2147 (2014), the UN Security Council condemned the operations of armed groups and their violations of international humanitarian law and other principles of international law. It demanded that they cease immediately all abuses of human rights, violence, and other destabilising activities by permanently disbanding, laying down their arms, and demobilising children from their ranks. It urged accountability for the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Despite the defeat of M23 in early November, other armed groups continue to commit human rights abuses, with the provinces of North and South Kivu and Katanga being among those most seriously affected. FARDC (Congolese armed forces) operations, supported by MONUSCO, are ongoing against the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and other groups. Abuses carried out by these armed groups include the murder and rape of civilians, and the recruitment of children.
During his visit to the DRC in February, Minister for Africa, Mark Simmonds, expressed our concern to the government of the DRC of the risks to civilians, if state authority and rule of law is not extended effectively and quickly when areas are vacated by armed groups. The UK continues to support projects aimed at helping to stabilise the eastern part of the DRC. We are also working with others in the international community to encourage DRC and its neighbours to find a political solution which will lead to long-term, sustainable peace, stability and prosperity for its citizens. This includes supporting the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to the Great Lakes, Mary Robinson, to ensure implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF) agreement for the region. During calls on President Kabila and others, Mr Simmonds also lobbied the government of the DRC to adopt a comprehensive Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration programme. More than a year has passed since hundreds of M23 combatants fled the DRC for neighbouring countries, and it is important that the Congolese government ensures the permanent demobilisation of those fighters and comes up with a credible plan for reintegrating them into society, paying particular attention to the needs of the children and women among them.
State actors also continue to be responsible for the majority of human rights violations, with DRC armed forces predominantly responsible, alongside the police and intelligence agencies. We continue to lobby the Congolese authorities to bring perpetrators to justice.
On 7 March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) convicted Germain Katanga, a former rebel leader transferred to the ICC by the government of the DRC in 2007, of one crime against humanity (murder) and four war crimes (murder, attacking a civilian population, destruction of property and pillaging) committed on 24 February 2003, during an attack on the village of Bogoro, in Ituri, DRC. Katanga was acquitted of other charges, including of sexual violence, as personal culpability could not be proved. The judgment is subject to appeal.
We are working closely with the Congolese authorities to support the implementation of their national strategy on addressing sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) in the DRC. We continue to fund the deployment of a police expert in the east of the country to build capacity, in collection and storage, of forensic evidence. This supports DFID’s wider programme on security sector accountability and police reform, which includes a focus on SGBV. DFID are also providing humanitarian support to survivors of SGBV. During his visit to eastern DRC, Mr Simmonds accompanied the Archbishop of Canterbury on a visit to the HEAL Africa hospital in Goma to launch the UK-funded project “Silent No More”, which will train local faith leaders to support efforts to tackle sexual violence and promote gender equality, particularly using the voices of men.
Support for human rights defenders remains a priority, and we continue to work with and support them. We also continue to engage closely those working on human rights, including NGOs and local civil society. Together with EU partners, we made clear our objection to the arbitrary travel ban imposed upon opposition leader, Vital Kamerhe, and acknowledged that this ban was eventually lifted by the authorities. However, we remain concerned about the allegations of violations against human rights defenders, journalists and political opponents, including irregular judicial processes. This includes jailed MP Diomi Ndongla and North Kivu MP Mohindo Nzangi. We continue to encourage progress on delivering the election cycle, including the implementation of recommendations made following the EU’s mission to monitor the 2011 elections. ####This publication is part of the 2013 Human Rights and Democracy Report.