THE Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) (a coalition of Southern African human rights defenders organisations), calls on the DRC authorities to respect the right to life, security and the integrity of all persons as well as drop charges against all anti-government protestors.
SAHRDN is greatly disturbed by media reports that have been circulating since 31 December 2017 of security forces who violently dispersed peaceful protestors resulting in the death of at least seven (7) people and the arrest of at least one hundred and twenty (120) people.
According to media reports the protestors were members of opposition political parties, religious groups and ordinary citizens expressing their concerns about DRC’s governance issues, and calling for the resignation of the country’s President Mr Joseph Kabila who has been in power since 2001. Tensions have been increasing in DRC after the expiration of President Kabila’s second and last term in December 2016 and the postponement of elections.
The Catholic Church brokered an agreement between the incumbent President Kabila and the opposition political parties that was signed in October 2016, giving timelines for elections that were due in December 2017. President Kabila signed the agreement making undertakings to step down once his term came to an end to pave way for a democratic election. Elections have not been conducted and the incumbent President has expressed interest to continue ruling until December 2018. Elections are now said to be scheduled for 23 December 2018. This change of election dates has triggered the current peaceful protests. It has also been reported that there has been a countrywide shut down of the internet and SMS communication services by the telecommunications Ministry.
SAHRDN hereby reminds the DRC government and the security forces that:
1. they have an obligation to respect the fundamental rights to life, security and integrity of all persons, freedom of expression, association and assembly as guaranteed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights;
2. as a signatory to the African Union Constitutive Act, the DRC government has an obligation to hold free, fair and credible elections as well as facilitate a peaceful transfer of power;
3. DRC has an obligation under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to promote and protect all human and people’s rights including but not limited to the individual’s right to liberty and the security of persons and not subject people to arbitrary arrests and detention;
Therefore, SAHRDN calls upon DRC authorities to:
• drop all charges against the human rights defenders and ordinary people arrested for asserting their right to freedom of assembly during the peaceful protests and to immediately unconditionally release them from detention;
• take urgent steps to guarantee the security and safety of all human rights defenders and ensure that they are able to carry out their activities without fear of harassment, intimidation, arrest or detention;
• commit to crafting a roadmap in consultation with all stakeholders paving way for peaceful, free, fair and credible elections within a reasonable time.
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