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Amnesty: Torture and killings by state security agents still endemic

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Amnesty International - October 25, 2007

INTRODUCTION

This report documents serious violations of human rights that took place in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during and after the 2006-2007 electoral period. In particular, the report highlights two government security forces that were responsible for the majority of politically-motivated violations against both real and supposed political opponents of President Joseph Kabila and his ruling party. They are the Direction des Renseignements Généraux et Services Spéciaux de la police (DRGS), known as the "Special Services" police, and the Garde Républicaine (GR), Republican Guard, the elite army presidential guard under the control of President Joseph Kabila.

Many people arrested by these two services were held incommunicado and suffered torture or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in detention. Many of these individuals remain in pre-trial detention and some have yet to undergo any judicial process to determine the legality of their arrest and continued detention. Many were detained because of their origins in Equateur province, the home province of Jean-Pierre Bemba, Joseph Kabila’s main rival in the presidential elections, or because they share Jean-Pierre Bemba’s ethnicity. Such arbitrary arrests and detentions are reportedly continuing in Kinshasa.

Serious human rights violations were also committed in the context of fighting in Kinshasa in March 2007 between the army and Jean-Pierre Bemba’s armed guard, the Division de Protection Présidentielle (DPP), Presidential Protection Division, after this force refused a government order to disarm and report for integration into the national army. The DPP had itself been responsible for human rights abuses during the electoral period and had become a major source of insecurity in the city. The March fighting left up to 600 people dead, including many civilians killed by indiscriminate fire by both government and DPP forces. Amnesty International has obtained information indicating that Garde Républicaine soldiers extrajudicially executed a large number of detainees who were held at Camp Tshatshi, the main GR military camp in Kinshasa, and at other locations in the city in the wake of this fighting.

Amnesty International is concerned that far from protecting the people of the DRC, the state security services remain agents of torture and death. The DRC government has not launched any independent judicial investigations or brought any security force member to justice for the human rights violations documented in this report. Despite historic national elections, the country remains politically highly-charged and a climate of deep political uncertainty persists. In part, this is attributable to security force units that continue to serve narrow political interests and act outside Congolese law and international human rights treaties to which the DRC is a State party. This rampant impunity lies at the root of the lack of public confidence felt by most Congolese in all branches of their security services.

Two main factors are impeding a substantial improvement in respect for human rights in the DRC. The first is the slow progress made by the DRC government, with international support, in delivering Security Sector Reform (SSR), a national programme to integrate the former government and armed group forces into unified national army, police and intelligence services capable of operating professionally and in a politically-neutral manner, under accountable state authority. Currently the law enforcement jurisdictions of the police, army and intelligence services are unclear, overlap in practice, and suffer from confused or conflicting chains of command. Some security force units are answerable to individual political figures rather than their lawful superiors and have been used to persecute perceived or real political opponents.

The second is an institutional culture that is permissive of human rights violations, characterized by the lack of any independent mechanism to investigate and counter impunity for human rights violations committed by security officials. Weak and severely under-resourced civil law enforcement and judicial systems contribute to this state of affairs. These weaknesses in the police and judicial systems have resulted in the unlawful and excessive use of military tribunals to investigate and try civilians.

Across the country, the civilian population has borne and continues to bear the brunt of the human rights violations committed by state security forces as well as by armed political groups. In the east, where the conflict has never conclusively ended, grave human rights violations continue to be committed by government forces as well as by Congolese and foreign armed political groups. These will be the subject of further investigation and forthcoming report by Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is calling on the DRC government to launch independent investigations into the human rights violations documented in this report and to bring the perpetrators to justice. At the same time, urgent measures are needed to bring the country’s security services under the effective and accountable control of the state, ensuring that they uphold international human rights standards and operate in a politically-neutral manner at the genuine service of the Congolese people. As immediate steps, Amnesty International calls on the DRC government to:

- Prioritize reform of the police, ensuring that all police units are brought under the control of the civil authorities, with clear unitary lines of command.

- Place the Garde Républicaine under the national army chain of command, narrowing its activities to clearly-defined presidential protection duties.

- Ensure that all military, police and intelligence detention centres are under the supervision of the competent and legally-established authorities, and that national and international human rights monitors have unrestricted access to all detention facilities.

- Introduce independent and effective "checks and balances" mechanisms to ensure accountability and counter impunity for human rights violations by state security officials. Such mechanisms might include independent complaints commissions or ombudspersons, or parliamentary commissions, with powers and resources to conduct their own investigations into allegations of misconduct by security officials.


Full_Report (pdf* format - 111.3 Kbytes)


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