The UN registered 345 violations committed during the 2011 electoral period, affecting at least 769 victims, including the deaths of at least 41 individuals.
The report recommends that Congolese authorities carry out independent, credible and impartial investigations into the violations and bring alleged perpetrators to justice, regardless of their rank or position. It also calls for disciplinary measures against State officials and agents who have abused their privileges for partisan reasons, and for the authorities to firmly condemn incitement to violence and racial hatred.
The victims were journalists, human rights activists, political party activists, and political leaders who appear to have been targeted because they participated in demonstrations or publicly expressed views at odds with local, provincial, or national officials.
In many cases, state security forces beat those detained during arrest or while they were in custody, and took their mobile phones, money, and other possessions. In the majority of cases Human Rights Watch documented, those arrested were never brought before a judge or formally charged. In 16 cases, those arrested were tried and convicted in trials that did not appear to meet international fair trial standards.
Nzangi said that the Congolese people should call on the government to end talks with the M23 rebels in Kampala, Uganda and continue military operations against them. He urged people to direct their pressure toward Congolese President Joseph Kabila as well as the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUSCO, by holding “peaceful actions” such as marches and sit-ins.
Hours later, Nzangi was arrested. He was flown to the capital, Kinshasa, and charged with endangering internal state security, revealing defense secrets, and insulting the president. Because he was allegedly “caught in the act” (flagrante delicto), Nzangi was not protected by parliamentary immunity. His trial before the Supreme Court began immediately, denying him the right to have adequate time to prepare a defense.
The day after Nzangi’s conviction, his political party suspended its participation in the ruling coalition and publicly condemned the “parody of justice.” Following a meeting between MSR members and Kabila on August 16, the party announced it would resume participation in the coalition.
International law provides that everyone convicted of a crime has a right to appeal their conviction to a higher tribunal. Nzangi was tried by the Supreme Court, yet Congolese law only permits reconsideration of Supreme Court verdicts if there is new evidence and the minister of justice and human rights requests the Supreme Court to reexamine the case.
Another case of flagrant human rights violations is of Eugène Diomi Ndongala, a former member of parliament and minister, has been detained since April in another apparently politically motivated case to silence dissent. He is awaiting trial.
Diomi is the president of the opposition Christian Democrats (Démocratie chrétienne) political party and a founding member of the Popular Presidential Majority (Majorité présidentielle populaire) – a pro-Tshisekedi political alliance. Diomi was elected to parliament in Kinshasa in 2011, but boycotted parliamentary debates and votes to protest the presidential election that was widely criticized as fraudulent and lacking credibility. Following a request from the attorney general, the parliament voted to lift Diomi’s parliamentary immunity on January 8.
On January 18, an arrest warrant was issued, charging Diomi with having repeated sexual relations with two under-age girls in June 2012. Diomi’s lawyer told me that for the next two-and-a-half months, the authorities pressured Diomi to accept a deal in which charges would be dropped if Diomi agreed to take his seat in parliament. When Diomi refused, he was arrested on April 8.
Three days later, government officials held a news conference, accusing Diomi of plotting to assassinate the president and prime minister. They displayed a machete, empty bottles, and gasoline, which they said Diomi and 13 others planned to use to make Molotov cocktails. Diomi was never officially charged with these offenses.
Congolese law specifies that alleged perpetrators of sexual violence should be tried within three months after judicial authorities are notified of the case. More than four months have already passed since Diomi’s arrest. Because of his prolonged absence, on June 15 Diomi’s mandate as a member of parliament was invalidated.
A year earlier, in June 2012, Diomi disappeared for four months. He reappeared in October and later told Human Rights Watch that he had been held in secret detention centers by Congo’s National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignement) and questioned and threatened about his political activities – a charge the agency denies.
Diomi is in Kinshasa’s central prison, despite three court orders from Congo’s Supreme Court to hold him under house arrest pending adjudication of his case. The attorney general claims that Diomi is no longer a member of parliament and therefore does not have the right to be placed under house arrest instead of being held in prison. The attorney general also said that he is empowered to decide how to execute Supreme Court orders. He said that Kinshasa’s central prison “was the only residence [he] had available” and that he could not allow Diomi to go elsewhere, where he might escape.
Supreme Court officials argue that there is no legal basis for the attorney general’s refusal to execute the court’s orders. They said that Diomi should be under house arrest because he was a member of parliament at the time the alleged crime was committed, and that the fact that his status was lifted is irrelevant
Diomi has suffered from health problems while in detention. His lawyer told me that Diomi has lost full functioning of his arm because of nerve problems, and that the prison hospital center was unable to provide the necessary treatment.
The Democratic Republic of Congo legal system is based on Belgian Law and local traditions.
The President appoints all judges. However, this system hast not functioned Joseph Kabila took over, and administrators, often military officers, have assumed judicial functions.
Human rights violations under Joseph Kabila is a daily reality and hoping that the situation will get better after the release of this report is a forlorn and wishful thinking. The matter of fact is that Joseph Kabila does not understand human rights language.
By Guylain Gustave Moke
Photo-Credit: AFP- Congolese President, Joseph Kabila-Photo