Deceptions and recurring violations of human rights

07/05/2004
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Priority topics

Despite the political tension, the many meetings of the members of the mission showed clearly what the main problems
are for human rights defenders and those who are responsible for applying the law.

These concerns were mainly:

The protection of human rights

Generally, the human rights NGOs that the members were able to meet felt that the fundamental freedoms, protected
particularly by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and
the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (all ratified by the Congo) were continuously violated. To questions
concerning these points, the Deputy Secretary General of the Government, Zacharie-Charles Bowao, answered that
constitutional institutions such as the National Commission for Human Rights and the High Council for Communications
would soon be installed. A study of the texts defining the operation of these institutions as well as their competence
would allow the seminar to better understand the way in which they could reinforce a state of law.

The administration of justice

The persons whom the members of the mission met informed them of serious malfunctions of the judicial and police
systems of Congo; a grave consequence of these malfunctions was the impunity of perpetrators. During the members’
stay, many families of victims, particularly of those who disappeared during the Beach incident, were still waiting to hear
the judicial result of the cases concerned. They did not, however, bring suit for fear of reprisal and because they felt that
justice gave them scant hopes.
The First President of the Supreme Court whom the members of the mission met, stated that “judicial proceedings would
immediately rekindle civil war, for each defendant was protected by his clan”; which confirms the general feeling of
impunity. If the seminar were to study the malfunctioning of the Congolese judicial system, it could identify regional and
international measures against impunity, i.e. quasi-jurisdictional or judicial procedures as an alternative to the present
system.

Penitentiary administration

A number of points were raised concerning the collapse of the penitentiary administration. The absence of prisons, due
to destruction during armed conflict or the obsolescence of existing premises, can only be remedied by using other
facilities for restricting freedom, such as police or gendarmes stations. A consideration of international standards
applicable to places of detention would show that serious efforts must of necessity be made in this field.

The exercise of citizenship

The FIDH delegation went to Congo just before a long period of presidential, legislative and senatorial elections. Civilsociety had already denounced the many violations of article 25 b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights by the Congolese authorities. This text provides that “periodical, honest elections, by universal and equal suffrage
and by secret ballot, ensuring the free expression of the will of voters” must be organized. This is a topic that should be
on the agenda of the seminar.

All the people whom the delegation met (governmental, judicial, local authorities, as well as representatives of political
parties, journalists, NGOs) voiced their scepticism regarding the organization of a seminar before the end of elections.
These elections create an atmosphere of suspicion, which, in a country that still feels the trauma of many internal
conflicts, would not be conducive to a serene and constructive dialogue.

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