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UN Human Rights Chief Speech On DRC At The Human Rights Council

Published: Wed 3 Apr 2024 06:34 AM
55th Session of the Human Rights Council
Enhanced Interactive Dialogue on the Democratic Republic of Congo
Statement by Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
2 April 2024
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Decades of suffering have etched deep physical and mental scars on the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Today, as the insecurity reaches some of the most alarming levels seen in recent years, I fear that the enjoyment of human rights in the country has come to a grinding halt.
Since our last update to the Council in October, pervasive armed conflict, particularly in the east of the country, has continued to exact a dramatic human toll. The absence of State authority over large swathes of territory has also cleared the way for brutal levels of violence and attacks.
The insecurity is being fuelled by a seemingly impassable mountain of challenges: from large-scale corruption, to the unbridled race between multiple parties to take control and exploit the country’s wealth of natural resources, to ongoing violent land disputes.
I also remain extremely concerned about conflict and violence in the DRC spilling over throughout the region, as well as the active involvement of other regional actors in eastern DRC.
The cost of this situation for people is catastrophic.
Between 1 October 2023 and 15 March 2024, the UN Joint Human Rights Office documented 2,110 human rights violations and abuses throughout DRC. Of these, 59 per cent were committed by armed groups, and they include summary executions and conflict-related sexual violence.
Almost half of these violations and abuses were committed in the North Kivu province, where violence and tensions have reached boiling point.
Armed conflict between the M23 armed group and the Congolese army (FARDC) has intensified and now spread beyond Rutshuru to Masisi territory.
Hundreds of thousands have fled to the provincial capital of Goma, and further north in South Kivu province. According to humanitarian sources, this conflict displaced more than 2.5 million people in North Kivu between February 2022 and January 2024.
And women and girls are, again, particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and other forms of sexual abuse and exploitation, especially in and around camps for displaced people.
The UN Joint Human Rights Office has documented 156 people who were summarily executed at the hands of the M23. M23 was also found to have sexually abused 30 women and 12 children, and abducted 127 civilians including to forcibly recruit them to fight. These figures do not represent the full scale of abuses.
Many of these serious human rights violations could amount to atrocity crimes, and the alleged perpetrators and their accomplices must be held to account.
During this same period, the Office has also documented that the Congolese army or its proxies have been responsible for violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrest and detention, and the destruction of private property. On several occasions, they have attacked UN Stabilization Mission (MONUSCO) positions.
As MONUSCO begins its disengagement from the country this year under the agreement between the Congolese Government and the United Nations, I urge the authorities to uphold their responsibility to protect civilians. Without a rapid reinforcement of national armed forces in areas where people have been reliant on MONUSCO, the security vacuum may be filled by armed groups, with terrible consequences for civilians.
Excellencies,
The human tragedy in the DRC will never be solved by military action alone.
It is time to invest in dialogue. It is time to invest in restoring – and rebuilding – the rule of law. And it is time to invest in peace.
The Nairobi and Luanda processes hold the potential to silence the guns, guarantee better protection for civilians, and ensure sustainable development. It is crucial that both processes are anchored in human rights, in order to combat impunity and ensure the right of victims to truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-repetition.
I also urge that the current deployment of bilateral and regional military forces to enforce peace takes places in strict compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law standards. My Office is ready to help with this.
I welcome the progress that DRC has made in the fight against impunity. The fact that last year, 599 people were brought to justice for human rights violations and abuses by military courts is an encouraging step. I strongly urge these efforts to continue.
I am, however, concerned that the Government has lifted the moratorium on the death penalty, and I urge the authorities to revisit their position, building on the pledges made at the Human Rights 75 high-level event last year.
Efforts need to be stepped up to use transitional justice mechanisms to help the country come to terms with past crimes and violations. A clear strategy is needed to ensure that existing initiatives receive the necessary resources and that victim-centred transitional justice mechanisms are implemented. I thank the International Team of Experts on DRC for its continued support to the Government on these issues.
DRC will be undergoing its fourth Universal Periodic Review this year, an excellent opportunity for the country to review its progress on human rights and to strengthen its engagement with the UN system and the international community as a whole.
Excellencies,
Healing the deep wounds of DRC’s past and present will take sustained political will by all actors, from the Congolese people to the international community. It will require concrete steps by the Congolese Government to translate their promises on human rights into action. I thank the authorities for the work they continue to undertake with my Office, and I urge the members of this Council to significantly boost their funding and commitment so we can firmly anchor healing for the people of DRC in human rights, justice, and human dignity.
Thank you.

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