Democratic Republic of Congo: Concrete actions must be taken to protect Denis Mukwege after death threats
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the United Nations (UN) must take urgent and concrete measures to protect Denis Mukwege, a doctor and Nobel Laureate who is receiving death threats for demanding accountability and justice for serious crimes perpetrated in the country, said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
"We are alarmed that two weeks after President Tshisekedi pledged to protect Dr Denis Mukwege, his government and the UN authorities are yet to take concrete measures in that regard. Likewise, the authorities have not started investigations into the threats as promised by President Tshisekedi.
We are alarmed that two weeks after President Tshisekedi pledged to protect Dr Denis Mukwege, his government and the UN authorities are yet to take concrete measures in that regard. Likewise, the authorities have not started investigations into the threats as promised by President Tshisekedi.
“The hospital where Dr Mukwege works must also be protected. As well as hundreds of doctors, nurses and support staff who are worried for their safety, the hospital contains thousands of medical files belonging to survivors of rape, for whom Dr Mukwege has been a longtime advocate. The women receiving medical care at the hospital after suffering sexual violence are also in need of protection.
"President Tshisekedi and his government must take concrete and immediate measures, in agreement with Dr Mukwege himself, to ensure his adequate protection and that of his family and colleagues.
“In accordance with its mandate to protect civilians in the DRC, the UN must also act urgently to ensure the protection of Mukwege, his family, as well as the Panzi Hospital with its personnel and patients, in support of national authorities."
In July 2020 Dr Mukwege spoke out against a new wave of killings perpetrated in eastern DRC, where crimes under international law and other serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed for decades. He has relentlessly called for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal or a mixed criminal mechanism to try the perpetrators of the said crimes, including those documented in the 2010 UN Congo Mapping Project report.
Since July, Dr Mukwege has been receiving death threats in a targeted campaign of intimidation, through social media, phone calls and direct messages. His family and colleagues at Panzi hospital have also been targeted.
Two weeks ago, President Félix Tshisekedi "urged" his government to "take all the necessary measures to ensure the safety of Doctor Mukwege and the opening of investigations into these facts. "
Several embassies, as well as national and international organizations including the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Parliament, have publicly condemned these threats and called for investigations and enhanced protection.
In October 2012, Denis Mukwege escaped an assassination attempt when armed men entered his home and fired several bullets. His bodyguard was killed. After a short exile in Europe, he returned to DRC in January 2013. UN peacekeepers were taking care of his safety before withdrawing in May 2020.