People of DRC need action, not words

The United Nations is not doing enough to help protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo, warns Amnesty International.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has called for an end to human rights violations in the DRC, but Amnesty International is concerned that the Council has taken no concrete steps to back up its demands.

“We regret that the Council expended so much time and energy on reaching agreement to make these important political statements that it could not find the political courage and unity of purpose to adopt practical measures to give effect to them,” said Peter Splinter, Amnesty International’s representative at the United Nations Geneva office.

The UNHRC unanimously adopted a resolution expressing its concern at the deteriorating situation in the North Kivu region. It condemned the acts of violence and human rights abuses committed there and stressed the importance of bringing all perpetrators to justice. But the resolution includes no practical measures to combat impunity.  

The Council remained silent on the need for the government and the international community to expedite the rehabilitation and reform of the DRC courts and policing services.

It says nothing about the establishment of an independent and effective vetting process to exclude from the security forces persons reasonably suspected of having committed crimes under international law or other human rights violations.

No support is offered for the contribution of the International Criminal Court to addressing impunity or for the DRC Government’s cooperation with the Court in this regard.

“Political jockeying, this time having nothing to do with the human rights situation in the East of the DRC, has once again stood in the way of the Human Rights Council living up to its potential to contribute to the protection of the victims of human rights violations,” said Peter Splinter.

“Once again the majority of members of the Council have been content to be silent witnesses to a tug-of-war between the African Group position and the European Union, rather than active contributors to an outcome demanded by the situation.”

Amnesty International has welcomed the Council’s emphasis on the importance of strengthening the mandate of MONUC but believes the Council should have called for a stronger human rights component, such as the deployment of more human rights officers.

The Council has also done nothing to ensure that the efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, will be informed by human rights considerations.

“This is a measure that approaches self-inflicted blindness. The Council has mandated a weak follow-up procedure that will depend on already over-taxed human rights experts to keep it informed of developments in the eastern DRC,” said Peter Splinter.

“Instead, the HRC should have put in place a mechanism dedicated to enquiring into and reporting back to the HRC and other parts of the UN on the human rights situation in the region.

“It is time for all members of the Human Rights Council to assume their responsibility to effectively address situations of gross and systematic violations of human rights.  The half measures that they served the population of the eastern DRC today are not enough.”