Accessibility links

Amnesty: DRC Falls Short of Human Rights

  • David Dyar

The human rights monitoring group Amnesty International says the Democratic Republic of Congo has a long way to go with regard to human rights. The country celebrates five decades of independence on Wednesday only weeks after the murder of a prominent human rights activist.

As the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, celebrates its independence, critics say daily life for many Congolese remains difficult and precarious.

Amnesty International warns that the work of human rights activists in the country is increasingly dangerous and deadly.

"The DRC is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary of independence from Belgium and has worked out to put on a good show for these celebrations. But the bleak background is first of all a very worrying human rights situation in general, but also a difficult situation for those who are trying to make the situation better -- the human rights activists," said Claire Morclette, a DRC researcher for Amnesty International.

Amnesty says death threats against human rights activists and journalists in the DRC have increased during the past year.

The funeral of prominent human rights activist Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was held in Kinshasa last Saturday. His body was found in his car on June 2nd, the day after he was summoned to a meeting with police.

Amnesty says Chebeya had been working on several sensitive issues involving the head of the national police and had told Amnesty that he felt he was being kept under surveillance.

Congolese human rights lawyer Joseph Dunia worked with Chebeya and says his murder was "a great loss for all Congolese."

He says that at first, many people were intimidated by Chebeya's murder, but now many human rights defenders are even more determined to work harder and to show the world that that insecurity continues in the DRC and that daily life is difficult. He says 50 years after independence, there still is much to be done and that it is time for Congolese to show that they can improve their lives and liberty.

Dunia says that increased threats and violence against human rights activists, like Chebeya, are a step backward for Congo.

He says that elections had people hoping that the DRC was getting back on track. But he says that now it feels like the country is returning to where it started and that conditions for human rights defenders and journalists are dangerous. He says investigations into attacks do not end in convictions, which leads many in the DRC to believe that they are politically motivated.

John Numbi, head of police for the country, has been suspended. Amnesty International has called on the government to launch an independent commission of inquiry to investigate Chebeya's death.

Morclette says this should include international participation. "Unfortunately, the classical investigation that has been launched by the national prosecution does not really guarantee that any justice will come out of it, particularly if you look back at the precedent set with previous trials in two killings of journalists and human rights defenders, including Pascal Kabungulu who was murdered in 2005 in his home in Bukavu. Since then, no credible investigation has been made and there has been no trial either and the perpetrators are still running free."

Amnesty International says it fears that a withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission to DRC will lead to a further deterioration of human rights in the country.

XS
SM
MD
LG