A report by U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet finds some progress has been made in the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, the report finds extensive violations and abuses continue unabated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Bachelet is calling for a system of what the U.N. calls “transitional justice” to address the situation.
The report says the total number of human rights violations and abuses in eastern Congo dropped slightly during the period between June 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, compared to the year before.
Despite this decrease, it says the number of people killed in summary and extrajudicial executions rose to more than 600. That includes nearly 400 people killed by a rebel group in Ituri province, and 236 people killed by members of the Congolese security and defense forces in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.
U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif, who presented the report to the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, said violations by Congolese armed forces continue to pose serious concerns.
“These violations undermine efforts deployed to secure the east of the country," she said. "I urge the government to take the necessary measures to ensure that military operations of the armed forces against armed groups are conducted in strict compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law, and that violations by any members of the security forces are investigated and prosecuted promptly in accordance with the right to fair trial standards.”
During the reporting period, Al-Nashif said, Congolese courts have convicted nearly 300 members of the DRC armed forces, Congolese national police as well as members of armed groups on various charges. Some were found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
She says it is critical that the DRC implement a system of transitional justice so perpetrators of violations and abuses continue to be prosecuted.
“As the High Commissioner has stated during previous sessions of the Human Rights Council, transitional justice is key to unblocking the vicious circle of violence that persists in the DRC," Al-Nashif said. "The establishment of transitional justice mechanisms needs to effectively address impunity, guarantee access to justice and redress for victims, and ensure the implementation of guarantees of non-repetition.”
Transitional justice is a strategy, a way for countries emerging from conflict and repression to deal with human rights violations that are too large for a normal system of justice to tackle. It can include setting up special courts to prosecute gross human rights violations, reforming the existing justice system, or establishing a truth and reconciliation commission.
U.N. Human Rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told VOA that the U.N. cannot prescribe what form transitional justice should take in the DRC. This, she says, “depends on what the victims and civil society in the country demand.”
DRC Minister for Human Rights, Albert Fabrice Puela, says his government is determined to set up a National Commission for Transitional Justice and create a national reparation fund for victims of serious crimes.