Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2023, 07:24 GMT

Human Rights and Democracy Report 2017 - Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

Publisher United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Publication Date 16 July 2018
Cite as United Kingdom: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Human Rights and Democracy Report 2017 - Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 16 July 2018, available at: [accessed 19 May 2023]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The human rights situation in DRC continued to deteriorate in 2017. The UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) recorded 6,495 abuses and violations in 2017, a 25% increase from 2016, which had itself seen a substantial increase from 2015. With President Kabila delaying elections until December 2018, there were a large number of reported human rights violations related to arbitrary arrests and imprisonments, extrajudicial executions by state agents, and attacks on freedom of speech and expression. State officials were identified as the main perpetrators, committing nearly two thirds of all human rights violations and abuses. The deterioration of the human rights situation in DRC has resulted from the increasingly unstable political crisis and violence in the Kasai provinces and eastern DRC.

The UK's work in DRC focused on protecting the political space, peacebuilding and preventing sexual and gender-based violence. Instances of human rights violations relating to the restriction of democratic space, including freedom of assembly and expression, significantly increased in 2017, with a reported 1,375 violations. Nearly half of these occurred from October to December, correlating with an increase in political protests in the latter part of the year. There were a number of restrictions on freedom of expression, including the violent suppression of protests and political rallies, and service providers being ordered to shut down internet services. There were also a significant number of arbitrary arrests and imprisonments. The UK Government lobbied the DRC government to open up the political space, including by releasing political prisoners and by respecting the right to peaceful assembly, and publicly condemned government forces' use of excessive violence.

2017 saw the emergence of a significant crisis in the three Kasai provinces with reports of disappearances, mass killings and torture. The UN found nearly 90 mass graves in the Kasais. The majority of the violations and abuses were carried out by government forces (FARDC) and pro-government groups. The UNJHRO reported that soldiers of the FARDC killed over 750 people. Local militia, including followers of the Kamwina Nsapu movement, also committed a number of human rights abuses. In February, footage emerged which seemed to show government forces shooting unarmed civilians. In March, two members of the UN Group of Experts investigating the situation in the Kasais were abducted and subsequently murdered: it is unclear who was responsible. The UK supported a resolution at the June session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) calling for the creation of an international investigation into the allegations of human rights violations and abuses in the Kasai region. The appointed investigative team will provide an oral update at the HRC's session in March 2018, followed by a comprehensive report to the HRC's June 2018 session.

UNJHRO documented an increase of adult victims of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017, with at least 533 victims. The vast majority were victims of sexual violence perpetrated by combatants of armed groups and by armed militiamen. In 2017, the UK continued to support a more effective legal response to sexual violence in conflict in DRC. One significant success was the conviction in the Kavumu trial in December, when a group of militiamen received life sentences for sexual abuses against over 40 children in South Kivu. The UK is also working with international partners to complete a joint evaluation of the impact of sexual violence programming in DRC. This is designed to inform more effective interventions by both the DRC government and the international community in the future.

In 2017, armed groups in eastern DRC were responsible for human rights abuses such as mass killings, sexual violence and torture. The UK focused on long-term stability and peacebuilding in eastern DRC through our contributions to MONUSCO (UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DRC), the work of DFID, and programmes supported by the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF). Through the CSSF, we supported respected Non-governmental Organisations Avocats Sans Frontières and Search for Common Ground to educate human rights defenders and promote conflict resolution. In May, the UK supported EU sanctions against nine individuals responsible for human rights violations and abuses and for obstructing the political process.

The female illiteracy rate in DRC is 29%[35]. DFID funded programmes on girls' education to improve access and quality of education for more than one million children, including reducing school-based violence.

In 2018, the UK will continue to focus on protecting the political space during the electoral period. We will monitor events closely and will raise any concerns over arrests, detentions and disappearances of opposition and civil society figures with the DRC government. The UK will also continue its work on the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative and deliver a second phase of the girls' education programme to support 75,000 girls. We will continue to encourage the DRC government, as an elected member of the HRC, to take active steps to improve respect for human rights. This includes encouraging active cooperation with the HRC investigation into the human rights violations and abuses in the Kasais.

[35] group=literacy_1524&countries=all

Search Refworld