FIDH welcomes EU decision to maintain individual sanctions against senior DRC officials

Press release
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Nairobi – Brussels – Kinshasa – On 11 December 2020, the Council of the European Union (EU) decided to renew the restrictive measures against 11 senior government officials of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year. FIDH and its members – the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO - l’Association africaine pour la défense des droits de l’homme), the Lotus Group (Groupe Lotus), and the League of Voters (Ligue des électeurs) – welcome this decision, given the involvement of these individuals in human rights violations and other abuses of civil liberties committed in the DRC and the influential positions they continue to occupy within the Congolese political apparatus.

The Council of the European Union renewed the asset freeze and visa ban for the European Union until 12 December 2021 against 11 individuals from the DRC who have been on the EU sanctions list since 2016. [1] Only one individual was removed due to his death earlier this year in the DRC. [2]

These individuals were placed on the EU sanctions list because of their roles in planning, leading or committing serious human rights violations, or undermining the rule of law in the DRC. Most of these individuals are believed to have been involved in the violent repression that preceded the general elections in December 2018 (2015-2018).

These individuals are still in a position to incite the commission of serious human rights violations. Their continued presence in influential positions in the Congolese political and security apparatus imperils the fragile democratic transition process in the country. Indeed, some of them occupy key positions in the Congolese military hierarchy, notably within the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and the Congolese National Police (PNC). Others hold positions in political groups close to former head of state Joseph Kabila, which are still influential, and in a political context that remains very fragile.

The absence of judicial measures against these individuals fosters a culture of impunity that enables further violations. With regard to the fight against impunity more generally, no efforts or progress have been observed regarding the opening of investigations into crimes committed during the pre-electoral period, including in the Kasai provinces (2015-2018). [3]

Moreover, civil society organisations and the United Nations deplore further human rights violations committed in 2020. According to the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO), 611 human rights violations were committed throughout the DRC in October, 46% of which were committed by state agents, mainly belonging to the FARDC and the PNC. [4]

The Council’s decision comes in a particularly fragile political context in the DRC, with the end of the coalition in power since January 2019 which included President Tshisekedi’s Cap pour le Changement (CACH) and former President Kabila’s Front Commun pour le Congo (FCC). [5] The announcement of the end of the coalition by the President of the DRC in early December 2020, as well as the subsequent dismissal of the President of the National Assembly, Jeanine Mabunda of the FCC, marks a deep rupture in the Congolese political class, which is concerning because of the violence and instability it has generated. [6] Our organisations interpret the maintenance of restrictive measures against these individuals as a strong message from the European Union, which must be translated into a concrete commitment by the authorities to fight impunity, in particular by opening judicial investigations in the cases of individuals subject to sanctions. [7]

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