President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (Photo by Michele Tantussi / Getty Images)
- DRC President Felix Tshisekedi last year instituted a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri to fight armed groups and protect civilians.
- Sweeping powers given to the army have resulted in at least a thousand civilian deaths in the two provinces within a year.
- Amnesty International says the state used the siege to silence those responsible for their actions in the conflict-torn provinces.
One year since the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government imposed a state of siege in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, the number of civilians killed by armed groups has doubled, Amnesty International (AI) said in a new report.
According to AI, the state of siege – similar to a state of emergency – has been used as a tool to crush dissent, with two human rights activists killed by security forces and dozens of activists randomly detained on trumped-ups.
All its director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, commenting on the findings in the report entitled “DRC: Justice and freedoms under siege in North Kivu”, said that the state of siege was characterized by lawlessness of state actors.
“In total contempt of law, the defense and security forces have been given broad powers that are not justified by the stated purpose of the state of siege, which they have used to silence anyone who demands responsibility for the actions of the state in the conflict provinces, “he added.
There are fears if the state of siege, which began on May 3 last year, is not lifted, it could become the new normal and pollute freedoms.
“[DRC] “President Felix Tshisekedi must lift all restrictions on human rights and ensure that the state of siege does not become a permanent regime by laying out a clear timetable for ending the restrictions,” Muchena said.
Initially, Tshisekedi introduced the measure to combat armed groups and protect civilians, but the number of civilian victims of armed conflict in the region has more than doubled.
According to the report, citing UN figures, more than a thousand civilians were killed and no one was charged.
The report reads:
According to the United Nations, the number of civilian deaths between June 2021 and March 2022 has risen to at least 1,261
Parliamentarians and pro-democracy activists, who have openly spoken out against the state of siege, are branded as enemies of the state.
AI gave an account of Mumbere Ushindi, 22, who was killed by police after staging a peaceful demonstration.
The report said “he was shot by police during a protest against the state of siege to stop his failure to kill civilians. He died of gunshot wounds on January 24, 2022”.
La Fontaine Katsaruhande, 22, an activist working for Fight for Change (LUCHA), had his right leg amputated after being shot by a police officer on September 21, 2021 during a peaceful protest that also announced the continuation of civilian deaths despite the state of belis, the report said.
The plight of civilians is made worse because military courts have a mandate to prosecute criminal cases and this undermines the right to a fair trial.
In November 2021, 12 LUCHA activists arrested in Beni were each sentenced to one year in prison by the military courts for expressing their concerns about the failure of the state of siege to protect civil liberties.
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The state of siege of DRC has more than doubled civilian killings, says Amnesty International
Source link The state of siege of DRC has more than doubled civilian killings, says Amnesty International