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Congo (Kinshasa): Human Rights Rapporteur
Congo (Kinshasa): Human Rights Rapporteur
Date distributed (ymd): 990423
Document reposted by APIC
Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +security/peace+
This posting contains excerpts from the oral presentation of
the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, documenting human rights abuses by the
government, rebel forces and foreign armies involved in the
Oral Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the
Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Mr. Roberto Garreton
55th session of the Human Rights Commission
Geneva, March 22 - April 30, 1999
[slightly abridged version of Mr. Garreton's oral
presentation; unofficial English translation by APIC; Spanish
original and French translation of this presentation, as well
as the full report in English, are available on the web site
of the UN High Commission for Human Rights
Geneva, March 31, 1999
I. Presentation of the Report
I submit my fifth report on the situation of Human Rights in
the DRC, as a complement to the one presented before the
General Assembly (A/53/565), pursuant to Human Rights
Commission resolution 1998/61
First of all, I will summarize the main issues/aspects
developed in the report:
- the atmosphere of hatred prevailing in the country, as the
result of 32 years of dictatorship by Mobutu Sese Seko, who
imposed an oppressive regime in absolute contempt of the
fundamental rights and freedoms of Congolese society.
- the existence of serious offenses to life and freedoms,
which I have grouped in four categories:
- Violations of human rights law ... These violations, for
which the Governement in Kinshasa has to be blamed, and which
affect the whole population, and more specifically political
leaders, human rights advocates and journalists, are the
following: offenses against the right to life (in particular,
the frequent application of the death penalty following
summary trials), against the rights to physical integrity, to
security and liberty of person, to be able to leave one's
country, to freedom of expression and opinion, and to freedom
- Violations of the same rights, attributable to the rebel
forces fighting against the Government which overthrew the
dictator Mobutu in 1997 (namely, exactions against civilians,
deportation of prisoners to neighbor countries, use of secret
detention cells, sexual abuses against women and the total
absence of the freedoms of opinion and expression).
- Violations of the norms of international humanitarian law,
committed by Governement forces and their allies, during the
armed conflict in the Eastern part of the country, in
particular (namely offenses committed against civilians in
Kimbaseke, Masina, Boma, Moanda, Ndjili and Mikonga.
- Violations of the same norms during the armed conflicts,
attributable to the rebel forces and foreign forces from
Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, sucha as cuts of power and water
which have affrected Kinshasa, and massacres in Kasika,
Kavumu, Kilungutwe, Kasanga, Kazima, Mboko, Kabare, Mwnga,
Makobola, and those reported in various other locations.
- the paralysis of the process of democratization, which was
initiated in the former Zaire in 1990 and which culminated in
the Sovereign National Conference in 1991-92.
- Until December 31, 1998, the Rapporteur had not received
any collaboration from the Government, preventing him from
accomplishing/carrying out his mandate.
II. Request by the Governement to Visit the Country
The special Rapporteur was invited to visit the country
between February 16 and 23 ... This was the Rapporteur's first
visit since October 1996 and his first contact with the
authorities after the AFDL took power.
In the course of his mission, the Rapporteur was received by
the highest authorities of the State: the Minister of
Interior, the Vice-Minister for territorial administration,
the Minister of Justice, the Vice-Minister of Defense, the
Vice-Minister of Foreign Relations, the Minister for Human
Rights (on 2 occasions), the General Public Prosecutor, the
President and members of the Court for Military Order, and the
Governor of Lubumbashi. He was allowed to visit some prisons
(the penitentiary and reeducation centre of Kinshasa -
formerly Makala, the centre of Kasapa (Lubumbashi), the jail
of the National Intelligence Agency in Lubumbashi, a military
centre for detention (the GLM, supervised by the "Garde
Speciale de Securite Presidentielle"), as well as some centers
where people are kept in prison because of the risk they might
run outside, as they belong to ethnic groups which are
considered as enemies by the population (INSS in Kinshasa, and
former convent Batika in Lubumbashi). He also visited a camp
for displaced persons fleeing from the conflict (formerly home
for the blind of Kamalondo in Lubumbashi, with 382 people)
The Rapporteur also met with members of civil society (a
hundred NGO and trade-union representatives), former and
present magistrates, and representatives of Protestant,
Kimbanguist, Orthodox and Muslim communities. He also
interviewed some leading political figures, including some
currently in prison, such as professors Kalele and Kabanda (in
Kinshasa) and Olenghankoy (Lubumbashi).
Furthermore, the Rapporteur had a series of meetings with
leaders of the main political parties: Etienne Tshisekedi
(UDPS), Antoine Gisenga (PALU), Mr. Bofassa and his colleagues
(MPR) and other FONUS leaders, and a delegation of "Forces du
Futur." He also participated in a meeting with the
representatives of a new political structure close to the
Government, known as "Comites de Pouvoir Populaire".
The Rapporteur also met with representatives of UN agencies
and members of the Diplomatic Corps. ...
In the area occupied by "the rebellion" (the term used by the
Boma authorities) or by "the forces of aggression" (the term
used by the Kinshasa authorities), the Rapporteur was
cordially received and obtained full guarantees and freedoms
to carry out his task. He was received by the entire Political
Council of the RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour la
Democratie). He visited the central prison in Goma and a
centre for dentention of the Service of Military Intelligence
(Office II), where cases of torture had repeatedly been
In accordance with the rules of the United Nations, all
interviews were carried out in strict confidentiality.
III. Main Reasons for Concern
3.1 War in the East
Since August 2, the country is facing a situation of war
described by the Rapporteur as "an internal armed conflict
with the participation of foreign forces", with the presence
of nine national armies (Forces Armees Congolaises, FAC;
armies from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Angola, Namibia, Sudan,
Chad and Zimbabwe) and at least 12 irregular armed groups
(troops from the RCD, FDD, former FAR, Interahamwe, Mouvement
de Liberation Nationale, UNITA, Mai-Mai, Sudanese SPLA,
Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, the Simba, and the Union of
Republican Nationalists for Liberation). The Rapporteur's
description is based on the following elements:
- the rebels, including their allies from Rwanda and Uganda,
made clear their goal was to overthrow President Kabila;
- that foreign forces support the latter because they
consider him the legitimate president of the DRC.
- the conflict is taking place entirely within DRC territory.
Nevertheless, it remains obvious that the Government of the
DRC, as well as the Congolese people in general, perceive the
conflict as an aggression. ...
Due to the presence of armies and armed groups, an atmosphere
of terror prevails in the area occupied by the rebels, which
can be noted in the very first contacts with the population.
To the question concerning who or what the population is
really afraid of, the answer is straightforward and unanimous:
the RCD, seen as a Rwandan force of occupation. The hatred
towards Rwandans (denounced by the Rapporteur in his 1995
report E/CN.4/1996/66, paragraph 26, one year before the war
of liberation started) gradually turned into anti-Tutsi
feeling, to such a point that the Government in Kinshasa -- on
questionable legal grounds -- was led to deprive some
citizens of their freedom, most of them being Congolese
nationals, but also from Rwanda, Burundi and
Congo-Brazzaville, as a measure to protect them from potential
reprisals from Congolese civilians... The war which started on
August 2 seriously deepened thet anti-Tutsi feeling,
especially after the massacres committed in Kasika, Makobola,
Kamituga, in the territories of Walungu and Mwenga (Province
of South-Kivu), to name only the main ones.
3.2. Lack of progress in the democratization process
The government's announced steps towards a democratic regime
did not prove sufficient and, particularly, did not receive
substantial backing from civil society, human rights
organizations or political parties which had opposed Mobutu's
dictatorship. The process of elaboration of a Constitution has
not been completed. Although the ban on political party
activity was remitted, all those which were legally
constituted lost their statuses and will have to get
constituted according to the new laws, which then means that
their activities remain illegal at the moment. Civil society
has not been involved in the making of the Constitution and
the new political laws. A date for the next elections has not
been fixed yet. However, they could not take place in the near
future, due to the present conflict. Despite this
postponement, the sacred right of the people to participate in
politics can not be set aside, and in that field, improvements
are far from being sufficient.
In the area occupied by the rebels, no sort of political
participation can be found. The one and only party authorized
to act is the RCD, without any opposition allowed.
3.3 Non-respect for human rights
In this short presentation, the Rapporteur will lay stress on
these two key elements:
a) the right to a fair trial: the Court of Military Discipline
continues to judging both military and civilians in trials
which do not respect the norms of equity. ...
Furthermore, the Court frequently applies the death sentence.
It should be said, however, that no execution has taken place
in 1999, which shows an advance on the information continued
in this report.
The dismissal of 315 magistrates at all levels is also
contrary to the right to justice, as it places the judges in
a situation of vulnerability and questions their independence.
b) Human rights activists, political leaders and
journalists are frequently threatened and imprisoned for
reasons that are rarely clear.
Besides the cases noted in this report, it is appropriate to
mention the following detentions and persecutions, recorded
since the beginning of 1999: journalists Thierry Kyalumba,
Francois Kalima Malangu, Andre Ipakala Abeiye, Michel Museme
Diawe; political leaders Mifundu Kahugu (PALU), Adrien Phongo
Kunda (UDPS), Cleophas Kamitatu Masamba (PDSC), Boffasa Djema
(MPR), Kisimba Ngoy (PNF), Nyembo Shabani et Boboliko Lokonga
Some human rights activists have also faced similar situations
since the beginning of 1999. The vice-chair of the NGO
"Friends of Nelson Mandela" was arrested in Makala (Kinshasa)
because he was carrying a passport of the Republic of Zaire,
and because his organization was using the name of Nelson
Mandela, considered "an enemy of the Congolese people." On
February 5, Floribert Chebeya (from "La Voix des Sans-voix")
was also arrested but released some time later.
3.4. The situation in the areas controlled by the rebellion
The situation is even worse in the areas under rebel control:
there is no opposition press, and many NGOs have stopped
functioning, given that many members fled into exile or
became clandestine. ...
Another subject of concern is the transfer of prisoners
from the occupied territories to Rwanda and Uganda.
The War Operations Council established by the rebellion, even
providing a possibility for appeal, has condemned a number of
military, including some minors ("Kadogos"). Some of them were
sentenced to death.
Finally, since February, a wave of violence has been noted in
the provinces of North and South Kivu, as the Rapporteur
stressed in a recent communique.
IV. Some Progress
4.1. In the areas under control of the Government
Some progress mentioned in the report was confirmed during the
mission and some others were recorded at that occasion: the
creation of a Ministry for Human Rights, and most of all, the
devotion with which the Minister seems to accomplish his
tasks; the announced set up of education programs related to
human rights, for the military and policemen; the announced
ratification of two new treaties on human rights, and in
particular, the two Protocols additional to the Geneva
agreement; the distribution of the Universal Declaration in
national languages; obvious improvements of the penal system
(especially the prison of Makala), ... We also need to
mention the suspension of the application of death penalty in
1999; the freeing of 84 people on February 12, among them many
arrested for political reasons; improvement in the conditions
of detention of the people deprived of their freedom because
of their ethnic group after their transfer from the camp
Kokolo to the INSS site; the set up of a national commission
of investigation on the massacres committed in the East of the
country and in the province of Equateur between October 1996
and May 1997, during the war of liberation.
Finally, the Government's cooperation with the special
rapporteur and other mechanisms of the commission on Human
Rights. For the first time, the Rapporteur received an
ackowledgement for one of his letters of allegations.
4.2. In the areas under the control of the rebellion
In the area controlled by the rebellion, the only significant
change appeared to be the suspension of the execution of death
penalty sentenced by the Council of War ...
V. Investigation of the Massacres Perpetrated in 1996-1997.
Following the report E/CN.4/1997/6/add.2, the Commission
appointed a Joint Mission, to investigate the massacres
perpetrated in refugee camps, as well as other violations of
human rights in the East of Zaire since September 1, 1996,
during the war of liberation. The AFDL, along with the RDC and
Rwandan forces, have always denied the allged facts and never
cooperated with the Mission. For that reason, the Secretary
General decided to name a team of investigation, which,
however, was withdrawn due to the obstacles put forward by the
Since the beginning of the war, the current Government
acknowledged the facts in question, attributing the
responsibility to its former allies. On January 29, it created
a national Commission of inquiry.
Although the rebel authorities did not advance any explanation
for this problem, the RCD person in charge of foreign
relations admitted the facts in front of the Rapporteur, but
attributed them to the Kinshasa leaders. There is thus an
urgent need to re-open the investigations, either by
establishing ad hoc teams, or providing support (logistical,
financial and human) to the commissions established by the
governments of the RDC and Rwanda, to the extent that they
contribute effectively to establishing the facts.
Although all are of equal importance, the rapporteur
wants to particularly lay stress on three recommendations
appearing in his report:
The most urgent is the conduct of serious and responsible
negotiations in order to end the war. The Government cannot
keep on ignoring the reality: the rebels exist, independently
of any foreign support. Peace needs to be made with all of the
belligerents. It is necessary to put an end to military
assistance and weapons trade to the parties in conflict. An
international military force, set up in the historical borders
of the DRC and its eastern neighbors, would contribute to
establish peace and, above all, protect the civilian
In the same way, the Government cannot keep on ignoring the
necessary support of the population, required for any credible
transition to democracy, as well as the organization, in the
shortest possible time, of elections in which the whole
Congolese people should participate.
The need for protection and respect for human rights
activists becomes urgent, as does the need for guarantees for
a fair trial. The death penalty should also be abolished.
As for the rebel forces, they should understand that they
cannot count on any popular support and that they are
considered as aggressors who brought an atmosphere of terror
among the population, while increasing a feeling of resentment
towards the Rwandans.
The international community has to collaborate with the
Government in order to find a solution to the problem of
deplaced people in the country, and the problem of the people
who find themselves imprisoned for protection purpose, because
of their ethnic origin.
Without affecting the investigations set by the governments of
the DRC and Rwanda, which should be suppported by the United
Nations to secure their transparency and significance, the
Rapporteur insists on the necessity to widen the scope of the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or to establish a
similar court to judge the events that occurred in the DRC,
whatever the nationality of the perpetrator.
The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights must be
strengthened to ensure better cooperation with, on one
hand, the Special Rapporteur while carrying out his work, and
on the other hand, with the Government in order to reinforce
the promotion and protection of human rights. Technical
assistance for human rights should be put in place in the DRC,
only after serious, tangible and effective actions have been
decided by the Government in roder to build a society based on
the respect of those rights.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
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