Congo (DRC) & UN Human Rights Council: Civilians in Eastern DRC need more than half measures

Words are not enough, says Amnesty

The people of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) need practical measures and decisive action to stop the gross human rights abuses, not just words, said Amnesty International.

The announcement came as the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a resolution expressing its concern at the deteriorating situation in North Kivu and calling for an immediate end to all human rights violations.

Amnesty International's representative at the United Nations Geneva office, Peter Splinter said:

"We regret that the Council expended so much time and energy on reaching agreement to make these important political statements that it could not find the political courage and unity of purpose to adopt practical measures to give effect to them.”

In the Special Session devoted to address the human rights situation in eastern DRC, the Council condemned the acts of violence and human rights violations and abuses committed there, and stressed the importance of bringing all perpetrators to justice.

While the Council’s resolution usefully calls on the DRC Government to investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations, it includes no practical measures to combat impunity.

The Council remained silent on the need for the government and the international community to expedite the rehabilitation and reform of the country’s courts and policing services.

It also made no reference to establishing an independent and effective vetting process to exclude from the security forces those suspected of having committed crimes or human rights abuses.

In addition the Council did not offer support for the contribution of the International Criminal Court to bring perpetrators to account, nor did they urge the Congolese Government to cooperate with the Court in this regard.

Peter Splinter continued:

"Political jockeying, this time having nothing to do with the human rights situation in eastern DRC, has once again stood in the way of the Human Rights Council living up to its potential to contribute to the protection of the victims of human rights violations.

“Once again the majority of members of the Council have been content to be silent witnesses to a tug-of-war between the African Group position and the European Union, rather than active contributors to an outcome demanded by the situation."

Amnesty International welcomes the Council’s emphasis on the importance of strengthening the mandate of MONUC and its call on all states to immediately provide assistance to MONUC.

However, Amnesty is disappointed that the Council did not call for a stronger human rights component, including by calling for the deployment of more human rights officers and supporting reporting on the human rights situation to the Council and other parts of the UN.

The Council has done nothing to ensure that the efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, will also be informed by human rights considerations or practical measures that will take account of the need for justice and accountability to break the repeated cycle of massive human rights violations.

Peter Splinter said:

"This is a measure that approaches self-inflicted blindness.

“The Council has mandated a weak follow-up procedure that will depend on already over-taxed human rights experts to keep it informed of developments in the eastern DRC. Instead, the Human Rights Council should have put in place a mechanism dedicated to enquiring into and reporting back to the Council and other parts of the UN on the human rights situation in the region.

"It is time for all members of the Human Rights Council to assume their responsibility to effectively address situations of gross and systematic violations of human rights.

“The half measures that they served the population of the eastern DRC are not enough."

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