DRC: EU must maintain sanctions against 14 senior officials, nearly a year after the changeover

Press release
en fr

(Paris, Brussels, Kinshasa) — Almost a year after the presidential changeover in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), most Kabila-era senior officials under European sanctions have remained in their positions or in the political and security sphere. No legal action has been taken against them by Congolese authorities, despite some being suspected of serious crimes. Our organisations call on the European Union (EU) to maintain and extend the restrictive measures—which expire on 12 December 2019—against 14 senior officials and ask the Congolese authorities to take legal action against them.

These 14 individuals, whose assets have been frozen and who have been banned from entering the EU for some years now (1), continue to hold key positions in the Congolese political and security apparatus, while enjoying total impunity for the serious human rights violations for which they are allegedly responsible and for which the EU has adopted restrictive measures against them.

Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Inspector General of the Armed Forces, Director of Police Training Schools, or Senior Assistant to the Chief of State for Security, these individuals remain in a position to influence the political and security policies and measures taken by the new authorities in their roles heading operational entities or within the country’s political and legislative bodies (2).

"In the current context of political transition in the DRC, the hasty lifting of sanctions risks being interpreted as a green light for widespread impunity to persist and as a withdrawal of support for the victims of the former regimes’s bloody political repression. Lifting sanctions now would greatly weaken international efforts to pressure authorities to finally establish a rule of law respectful of democratic values," insists Dismas Kitenge, President of the Lotus Group.

While there have been encouraging signs since Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi came to power on 24 January 2019, including the release of several political prisoners and the return from exile of some political opponents, the political transition in the DRC continues slowly, the security situation remains fragile, and the strengthening of the rule of law remains far from unfinished. Worse still, numerous human rights violations and violations of democratic space, including the disproportionate use of force, continued to be committed throughout 2019 by members of the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police (PNC). These violations took place throughout the Congolese territory, under the command or authority of some of these individuals (3).

Until they are removed from influential positions in the political and security apparatus, there is a risk of violence, particularly in the upcoming local elections in the DRC, and as high community tensions continue to affect some areas of the country.

"Targeted sanctions must be maintained," demands Jean Claude Katende of ASADHO. "Until the Congolese authorities ensure that these individuals cease to exercise influence in the Congolese political sphere—including by prosecuting those suspected of planning, directing or perpetrating some of the main mass crimes and violence in recent years—lifting sactions should be off the table".

(1) Since 12 December 2016 for seven of them and since 29 May 2017 for the other seven.

(2) For the list of individuals currently under the restrictive measures, see COUNCIL DECISION (CFSP) 2018/1940 of 10 December 2018 amending Decision 2010/788/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against the Democratic Republic of the Congo

(3) See in particular: "Aperçu de la situation des droits de l’Homme en RDC au cours du premier semestre 2019" (only in French), United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) https://monusco.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unjhro_-_analysis_of_the_human_rights_situation_in_drc_2019_6_month_fr_final_0.pdf

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