PRESS RELEASE

“The UN Human Rights Council must assume its responsibilities”

Geneva, Dec. 22, 2009 – Fifty human rights groups from around the world today united in calling on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to reinstate the mandate for a human rights monitor in Congo, saying the position should never have been eliminated by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2008.

“The latest reports of atrocities in Congo tragically confirm what we desperately warned the UN Human Rights Council about last year,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights monitoring group that signed the appeal, with 49 other non-governmental organizations from around the world.

The coalition includes 14 African NGOs — from DR Congo, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, Senegal, Zambia, and Burkina Faso — and 36 more from Iran, India, the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and Australia, including representatives from Norwegian Church Aid, the International League for Human Rights and the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.

“The Security Council is voting this week on extending the Congo peacekeeping mission. The Human Rights Council must likewise assume its own responsibilities and reinstate a dedicated and independent human rights voice for Congo’s suffering victims,” said Neuer.
Widespread executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and rape in the eastern Congo remain a central concern, said the humanitarian groups, citing UN reports of unchecked impunity and a “complete lack of transparency” regarding government exploitation of natural resources. They cited alarming reports of 1,400 civilians killed since the inception of the government’s “Kimia II” military operation.

The UN Human Rights Council eliminated the mandate of the independent expert on Congo in March 2008, under pressure by several of the 47 member states, including Egypt, other Arab and African states, and Russia. The delegates alleged “positive developments in the human rights situation there,” and chastised the UN expert because such “improvements” were allegedly not “duly reflected in [his] report.” Other African states remarked that the Congolese government had established an “environment conducive to the promotion and protection of human rights”, with “serious measures aimed at protecting the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.”

In November 2008, the UNHRC convened a special session on the human rights situation in Congo, but the outcome resolution was watered down under pressure from African governments and their allies. Calls by UN Watch, Human Rights Watch, and other human rights groups to reinstate the expert went unanswered.

The European Union and Canada formally tabled a measure to reinstate the mandate in the UNHRC’s March 2009 session, but it was defeated on March 27 by a vote of 21-18, with 8 abstentions.

The UN’s expert on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, reported last week that civilians in the Congo have been “gang-raped and hacked or shot to death by the Congolese army—the very force that is supposed to protect them.”

Neuer said that this report “only underscores the need for Mr. Ban and High Commissioner Pillay to immediately lead the effort to reinstate a full-time, dedicated human rights monitor on the Congo, who can act as an early warning mechanism and assure international action. It’s time for the UN Human Rights Council to live up to its mission.”

See full text of NGO appeal and list of signatories below.

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Urgent NGO Appeal to Reinstate the UN Independent Expert on Congo

December 22, 2009

 

Dear UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon,
Dear UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navanenthem Pillay,

We, representatives of non-governmental organizations, reflecting the broad spectrum of international civil society, are appalled to learn of the serious violations committed by the Congolese government in recent weeks, and urge you to call for the immediate reinstatement by the Human Rights Council of an independent human rights expert to monitor, report on and help remedy the dire situation in the Congo.

Summary executions, torture, arbitrary arrests and rape are widespread throughout the country. Recent investigations by the UN Group of Experts show that the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo is increasingly precarious. Its new report, to be discussed at the Security Council this week, describes unchecked impunity and a “complete lack of transparency” regarding government exploitation of natural resources. Other credible reports cite the alarming figure that 1,400 civilians have been killed since the inception of the Kimia II government military operation.

In March 2008, the UN Human Rights Council eliminated the position of the independent expert on Congo after several member states made false claims about the situation on the ground. Tunisia’s Ali Cherif spoke of “the positive developments in the human rights situation there” — indeed, of “remarkable progress” — and chastised the expert because such “improvements” were not “duly reflected in [his] report.” Algeria claimed “significant progress” in the DRC, where “the situation is being normalized.”

 

Egypt’s Omar Shalaby, on behalf of the African Group, said the DRC boasted an”environment conducive to the promotion and protection of human rights”, with “serious measures aimed at protecting the realization of economic, social, and cultural rights.” He said that “the mandate has not offered clear prospects for improving the human rights situation on the ground”; that it “has not been of benefit to the DRC”; and that “any renewal of the mandate would be counterproductive.” The mandate was one “to which no clear achievement can be attributed.” Russia, among others, supported this line. On these unsubstantiated grounds, the Council then voted to eliminate the UN’s only dedicated independent human rights voice for DRC victims.

Soon after, there were massacres of civilians and increasingly crowded refugee camps with continued fighting between Rwandan rebel forces and the Congolese army. In November 2008, the Human Rights Council convened a special session on the human rights situation in Congo, but to no avail. The European Union was forced to withdraw its draft resolution and compromised on a watered-down text “calling for the immediate end to all human rights violations and unconditional respect for the rights of civilians,” yet making no concrete proposals or recommendations to monitor the situation on the ground. Failing to reinstate an independent expert, the Council also struck the EU’ proposal that the Special Rapporteurs on torture and extrajudicial executions report on the DRC.

Then, in March 2009, an attempt was made by the European Union and Canada “to appoint, for a period of one year, an independent expert.whose tasks will be to provide assistance to the Government.” Their draft text sought to express the gravity of the human rights situation in DRC and to highlight “the recruitment of child soldiers by armed groups and the ongoing and widespread acts of sexual violence against women and children.” Regrettably, this proposal was defeated.

Today, the situation continues to worsen. The UN’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, has just reported that “civilians have also been gang-raped and hacked or shot to death by the Congolese army — the very force that is supposed to protect them.” Professor Alston’s report lays bare the need for a dedicated expert to monitor the DRC. An early warning system could close the protection gap currently shrouding abuses by the Congolese government.

We urge you to call for and take all necessary action to reinstate the mandate of the independent expert on Congo, eliminated without basis by the UNHRC in 2008, and against the wishes of the victims. The Security Council is now scheduled to vote on a resolution to extend the mandate of the Congo peacekeeping mission. The Human Rights Council should likewise assume its own responsibilities. Civilians remain at high risk in a conflict that has already claimed the lives of 5 million people.

We urge you to act now for the suffering people of the Congo, before it is too late.

Guelord Mbaenda
Executive Director
Action des Jeunes pour le Developpement Communautaire et la Paix (ADECOP)
Democratic Republic of Congo

Madina Athie
President, l’ONG Citoyennes et citoyens Debout
Democratic Republic of Congo

Judge Mukete Tahle Itoe
Global Secretary General
Global Network for Good Governance (GNGG)
Cameroon

African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
Hannah Forster
Executive Director
Gambia

T.Thompson Ade-bayor
Regional Director, Regional Watch for Human Rights
Liberia

Siaka Coulibaly
Executive Secretary
Civil Society Organizations Network for Developpement (RESOCIDE)
Burkina Faso

Deudonne Zognong
Director, Fondation Humanus
President, Cameroon Coalition for the International Criminal Court
Cameroon

Priscilla M Achakpa
Women Environmental programme
Nigeria

Dr. Charles Mwape
President
Hope for Africa International
Zambia

 

  1. Jasper Cummeh, III
    Senior Policy Director
    Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives (AGENDA)
    Liberia

    Christian Mounzeo
    Président
    Rencontre pour la Paix et les Droits de l’Homme-RPDH
    Congo (Brazzaville)

    Egbuka Obinna
    President
    Youth Enhancement Organization
    Nigeria

 

Jamils Richard Achunji Anguaseh
Director of Programs
Global Welfare Association – GLOWA
Cameroon

Ibrahima Niang
Director
Mouvement Citoyen
Senegal

Soraya Usmani Martinez
Regional Coordinator, Sub Saharan Africa
International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
Denmark

Shomik Chaudhuri
UN Representative
Institute of International Social Development
India

Dr. Ahmed Subhy Mansour
President, The International Quranic Center (IQC)
USA

Robert Arsenault
President
International League for Human Rights
USA

 

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director
United Nations Watch
Switzerland

Greta Zeender
Senior Country Analyst

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre

Switzerland

 

Francois Ullmann
President
Ingenieurs du Monde
France

Kamitanji Kabuya
Program Consultant, East Africa
Norwegian Church Aid
Norway

A. Tony Fowke
President
World Federation for Mental Health
Australia

International Multiracial Shared Cultural Organization
USA

Virginia Swain
CEO, Founder
Institute for Global Leadership
USA

Kok Ksor
President
Montagnard Foundation
USA

Teresa Ulloa
Regional Director
Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean
Mexico

John Suarez
Cuban Democratic Directorate
USA

Dr. Vanee Meisinger
Pan Pacific and Southeast Asia Women`s Association of Thailand
Thailand

Lex Grandia
President
World Federation of the DeafBlind
Sweden

Rene Wadlow
Representative to the UN, Geneva
Association of World Citizens and
Association for World Education
Switzerland

Penelope Faulkner, Vice-President
Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
France

Don Kraus
Chief Executive Officer
Citizens for Global Solutions
USA

Ahmad Batebi
Spokesperson
Organization of Human Rights Activists in Iran
Iran

Vo Van Ai, President
Quê Me: Action for Democracy in Vietnam
France

Connie de la Vega
Board of Directors
Human Rights Advocates
USA

Dickson M.D Ntwiga
CEO
Solidarity House International
USA

Sajni M. Thadhani
MPTF Founder & President
Mulchand & Parpati Thadhani Foundation
USA

Wendy Wright
President
Concerned Women for America
USA

Dr. Janice Crouse
Senior Fellow
Beverly LaHaye Institute
USA

Ann Buwalda
Executive Director
Jubilee Campaign
USA

Chidi Nwosu
President
Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation
USA

Ulrich Delius
Africa Desk
Society for Threatened Peoples
Germany

Partab Shivani
Executive Director
Skill Enhancing & Research Home of the Children (SEARCH)
Germany

Paul Power
Chief Executive Officer
Refugee Council of Australia
Australia

John Sweeney
Co-ordinator of research
Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice and Community Education
Australia

Anne Shay
Justice Contact
Presentation Sisters Lismore
Australia

Les Malezer
Chairperson
Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action (FAIRA)
Australia

Babette Francis
National & Overseas Co-ordinator
Endeavour Forum
Australia

 

Jonas Karpantschof
Chairperson
European Union of Jewish Students
Belgium

Author

unwatch

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