(Kinshasa, September 18, 2016) – The Democratic Republic of Congo is at a critical juncture: In the coming months, President Joseph Kabila could agree to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit on December 19, 2016, and allow for the organization of credible presidential elections. This could set the vast central African country on the path toward stronger democratic governance, the rule of law, and respect for human rights, marking a significant precedent for Congo and the entire region. However, should President Kabila seek to remain in power outside the clear limits of the constitution, the country risks violence, instability, and repression on a widespread scale.
- Allow all Congolese, including civil society groups and opposition parties, to organize peaceful demonstrations and other political activities without disruption;
- Release all political prisoners and end politically motivated prosecutions of individuals for exercising their basic rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly
- Investigate and appropriately prosecute those responsible for serious human rights violations, regardless of position or rank;
- Open all media outlets that have been arbitrarily shut down, and ensure that access to information, including independent international media outlets, social media platforms, and text message communication, is not blocked; and
- Allow Congolese and international human rights defenders to work in Congo without interference.
To the leaders of Congolese political parties:
- Do not engage in incitement to violence or hatred; condemn the use of violence by political party members and take appropriate action to end it.
To the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO):
- Deploy peacekeepers to the areas near political demonstrations to deter potential violence, as part of the mission's mandate to protect “civilians under threat of physical violence … in the context of elections”;
- Ensure rapid deployment of peacekeepers to areas where political violence might break out;
- Put detailed plans in place to protect activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and politicians at risk; and
- Continue strong public and private messages denouncing political repression and other serious human rights abuses; urge the government to immediately release all political prisoners, end politically motivated prosecutions, open arbitrarily closed media outlets, ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is respected, allow Congolese and international human rights defenders to work without interference, and ensure that those responsible for serious human rights violations are appropriately held to account.
To Congo’s international donors, including the EU and its member states, the US, and the UN:
- Publicly denounce ongoing political repression and serious human rights violations against those who have spoken out against or opposed attempts to extend President Kabila’s presidency beyond the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit;
- Urge the Congolese government to immediately release all political prisoners, end politically motivated prosecutions, open arbitrarily closed media outlets, ensure that the right to peaceful assembly is respected, allow Congolese and international human rights defenders to work without interference, and ensure that those responsible for serious human rights violations are appropriately held to account;
- Implement targeted sanctions, including travel bans and assets freezes, against those most responsible for the violent repression and serious human rights violations against dissident voices committed in Congo since 2015. Particular attention should be given to senior government, intelligence, and security force officials implicated in serious human rights violations;
- Immediately withhold support or endorsement of any dialogue that is not inclusive of all major political parties in Congo, is inconsistent with UN Security Council Resolution 2277 and the Congolese constitution, or any outcome that does not have broad acceptance from the Congolese public;
- Raise concerns about human rights abuses committed by the ANR, including prolonged, arbitrary detention of activists and political opponents; call for human rights observers, including members of the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), to have unfettered access to all intelligence agency detention centers;
- Raise concerns about the misuse of the justice system for politically motivated purposes, and suspend assistance to the Congolese justice sector until there are concrete improvements in the independence of the judiciary;
- Use your positions as shareholders of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and African Development Bank to urge the institutions to provide direct budget support to Congo only if the government adheres to the constitutional requirements on term limits and organizes timely presidential elections;
- Suspend support to security forces implicated in rights abuses in the context of political demonstrations, campaigns, or the electoral process;
- Communicate clearly to the Congolese government that the failure to abide by the Congolese Constitution in a timely manner on presidential mandates, elections, and the transfer of power will have serious consequences for bilateral and multilateral relations; and
- Work with other international partners to develop a clear and complete plan for assisting in the funding of Congolese elections, and communicate this widely, once there is a credible timetable and demonstrated political will to move forward with elections, so that lack of resources is not an obstacle to constitutionally mandated elections.
To the African Union, the Southern African Development Community, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and China and other influential states:
- Encourage President Kabila to abide by the two-term limit in the constitution and allow for credible national elections and a peaceful transition of power; and
- Foster, with other international partners, a constructive dialogue in Congo that leads to a credible and fair electoral process in respect of the country’s constitution and international human rights law.
To the UN Human Rights Council:
- Establish an independent mechanism, such as an independent expert or an OHCHR team of independent experts, to regularly document and report on human rights abuses in the context of political demonstrations, campaigns, or the electoral process, and with capacity for rapid response;
- Mandate enhanced interactive dialogues on Congo at the sessions of the Human Rights Council in 2017, including with relevant UN bodies and stakeholders, to expand scrutiny of the human rights situation in Congo beyond the current discussions;
- Request thematic reports by the OHCHR, including on political repression and violence in the context of political demonstrations, campaigns, or the electoral process, which would focus on areas of particular concern; and
- Hold an urgent debate during the 33rd session of the Human Rights Council, or a special session, if the situation further deteriorates.
To the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court:
- Monitor the situation in Congo, visit the country, and publish a statement reminding officials that the court has jurisdiction over Congo and is watching developments closely.