At the invitation of the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and in accordance with Article 45(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Charter), a Delegation of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission) undertook a human rights promotion mission in the DRC from 6 to 12 August 2016.
The Delegation was composed of:
· Honourable Commissioner Pansy Tlakula, Chairperson of the Commission and Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Head of Delegation);
· Honourable Commissioner Soyata Maiga, Vice-Chairperson of the Commission and Chairperson of the Working Group on Indigenous Populations/Communities in Africa; and
· Honourable Commissioner Reine Alapini Gansou, Commissioner in charge of monitoring the promotion and protection of human rights in the DRC and Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in Africa.
The objectives of the mission were, inter alia, to promote the African Charter and other regional and international human rights legal instruments; monitor implementation of the Commission’s recommendations made in its Concluding Observations on the DRC’s Combined Periodic Report (8th, 9th and 10th) for July 2003 to July 2007 that was presented in 2009, as well as the Commission’s recommendations contained in its report following the mission it undertook in 2011; strengthen relations between the Commission and the DRC in the area of promoting and protecting the rights guaranteed by the Charter and other relevant regional and international legal instruments.
During the mission, the Delegation held discussions with state and non-state actors involved in the promotion and protection of human and peoples’ rights in the DRC. The mission began with a courtesy call on the Minister of Justice and Human Rights and Keeper of the Seals, who is also the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. The Delegation held an important meeting with a panel of ministers and senior government officials, including the Minister of Justice and Human Rights and Keeper of the Seals, the Minister of Communication and Media, the Minister of Culture and Arts, the Minister for Women, Family and Children Affairs, the Minister of Youth and Sports, the Vice-Minister of Interior, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Commissioner-General of Police, a senior official of the Ministry of Health, and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency. The Delegation also met with the Chairperson of the Independent National Electoral Commission, the High Audio-visual and Communication Council, and the National Human Rights Commission.
The Delegation was received by the African Union Facilitator for the national dialogue in the DRC. The Delegation also held meetings with civil society organisations and visited the Makala Central Prison.
The Delegation commends the Government of the DRC for its political will and commitment towards the effective enjoyment of human rights, including through the adoption, since the last visit of the Commission to the DRC in 2011, of legislative and other measures to implement the Charter and other ratified regional and international instruments.
The Delegation notes the following developments:
· The enactment in 2013 of a law to establish the National Human Rights Commission which became operational in 2015;
· The fight against impunity in the context of sexual and gender-based violence;
· The promotion and integration of a gender dimension in national policies and programmes;
· The efforts made in eradicating the phenomenon of child soldiers;
· The media and political pluralism;
· The ongoing process of updating the electoral register and registering new voters;
· The involvement, according to the authorities, of indigenous peoples and people living around national parks in the management and protection of forests and natural environments that are crucial to their survival, and the use of part of the revenue generated from tourism to assist these populations;
· The rehabilitation of places of detention and the Government’s policy to reduce prison overcrowding;
· The special and general pardon granted by the Head of State to women and girls serving prison sentences;
· The efforts made by the Government to provide riot control officers with the necessary equipment to be able to conduct their mission in accordance with the relevant international standards;
· The awareness-raising efforts and existing programmes to eradicate the HIV-AIDS pandemic, in particular among the youth and in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission;
· The commitment of the authorities to ensure that the country meets its obligation to submit periodic reports on the status of implementation of the Charter and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, under Article 62 of the Charter and Article 26 of the Protocol.
In spite of these positive aspects, the Delegation is concerned about many challenges, including:
· The current political situation which may jeopardize security and the progress made in the area of human rights;
· The limited financial resources for the smooth conduct of the electoral process;
· The challenges relating to prison overcrowding, mainly as a result of prolonged pre-trial detention;
· The phenomenon of sexual and gender-based violence in some provinces of the country;
· The lack of an effective media regulatory legal framework, resulting in cases of violation of freedom of the press and freedom of information such as the arbitrary closure of media outlets;
· The delays in ratifying regional and international instruments, in particular the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance;
· The delays, in Senate and in Parliament, in adopting laws that have an impact in the enjoyment of human rights, in particular the Access to Information Bill, the Media Bill, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Bill, and the Human Rights Defenders Bill;
· The low level of commitment shown by the Government of the DRC in handling individual complaints before the Commission.
The Commission will prepare a detailed mission report. Meanwhile, the Delegation would like to make the following preliminary recommendations:
i. All efforts and initiatives aimed at enhancing the enjoyment and protection of human rights should be continued and concluded as soon as possible;
ii. The Delegation urges the Government to expedite the enactment and promulgation of all bills aimed at improving citizens’ enjoyment of human rights, including the Access to Information Bill, the Media Bill, the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Bill, and the Human Rights Defenders Bill;
iii. The Government should submit its overdue periodic reports, in accordance with Article 62 of the Charter and Article 26 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa;
iv. The Delegation urges the Government and the opposition political parties to fully commit themselves to the dialogue process supported by the international community under the auspices of the African Union, by acting in the best interest of the country and the people of the DRC;
v. The Delegation calls on civil society organisations to continue to support efforts to promote and protect human rights in the country, including by working with the Commission and making use of all available platforms and mechanisms;
vi. The Delegation calls on the international community and international partners to support the Government in mobilising the necessary human, financial, technical and logistical support for the electoral process, and to continue to support ongoing efforts to ensure human rights promotion and protection in the country.
The Delegation wishes to express its profound gratitude to the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo for facilitating the mission and for the constructive dialogue with all the stakeholders.
The Delegation expresses its particular appreciation to the Minister of Justice and Human Rights and Keeper of the Seals for making the mission a success.
A press conference was organised at the end of the mission.
Kinshasa, 12 August 2016
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