A report by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet found that some progress has been made in the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, the report found that widespread violations and abuses continue unabated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. Bachelet is calling for a system the United Nations calls “transitional justice” to address the situation.
The report said that the total number of human rights violations and abuses in eastern Congo decreased slightly between June 1, 2020 and May 31, 2021, compared to a year earlier.
Despite this shortcoming, it says that the number of casualties and extra-judicial executions briefly exceeded 600. This includes about 400 people killed by a rebel group in Ituri province, and 236 killed by members of the Congolese security and defense forces. Ituri and North Kivu provinces.
UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada al-Nasif, who presented the report to the UN Human Rights Council this week, said violations by the Congolese armed forces are a matter of grave concern.
“These breaches undermine the efforts deployed to secure the country’s east,” she said. “I urge the Government to take necessary measures to ensure that military operations of the Armed Forces against armed groups are conducted in strict compliance with human rights and international humanitarian law, and violations by any member of the Security Forces are investigated and prosecuted immediately in accordance with the right to fair trial standards.”
During the reporting period, al-Nasif said, Congolese courts have convicted nearly 300 members of the DRC armed forces, the Congolese national police as well as members of armed groups on various charges. Some were found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
She says it is important that the DRC implement a system of transitional justice so that perpetrators of violations and abuse can be prosecuted.
“As the High Commissioner has stated during previous sessions of the Human Rights Council, transitional justice is the key to breaking the vicious cycle of violence continuing in the DRC,” Al-Nasif said. “The need to effectively address the establishment of a transitional justice system is to guarantee impunity, guarantee access to justice and redress for victims, and ensure the implementation of non-repetitive guarantees.”
Transitional justice is a strategy, a way for countries emerging from conflict and repression to deal with human rights violations that are too large to deal with in the normal system of justice. This may include the establishment of special courts to prosecute gross human rights violations, reform of the existing justice system, or the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
UN human rights spokeswoman Raveena Shamdasani told the VOA that the UN cannot determine what form transitional justice should take in the DRC. “It depends on what the victim and civil society demands in the country,” she says.
The DRC’s Minister of Human Rights, Albert Fabrice Puella, says his government is determined to establish a national commission for transitional justice and to create a national compensation fund for victims of serious crimes.