The vast majority of cases of torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) occur in conflict-affected areas where impunity is widespread, according to a UN report released today.
The report, issued by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in DRC (UNJHRO) and the UN Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO), covers the period between 1 April 2019 and 30 April 2022. The report presents UNJHRO’s findings that 93% of the 3,618 registered cases of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment affecting 4,946 victims were documented in areas affected by armed conflict. Of this total, 492 were cases of sexual violence, affecting 761 victims.
According to the report, members of the defence and security forces were responsible for 1,293 cases. A further 1,833 cases were attributed to members of armed groups, who sometimes acted on their own but in certain contexts subjected victims to torture in collusion with members of the security forces.
The report shows that people were subjected to torture and ill-treatment while exercising their fundamental rights, such freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or during detention.
According to the report, “violence inflicted in the administration of justice, in the restriction of democratic space or in places of detention illustrates the widespread nature of torture, which thrives in a context of relative impunity as few complaints against alleged perpetrators of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment are filed or successful. This contributes to an underestimation of the problem and its magnitude”.
Despite the magnitude of the violations and abuses committed during the reporting period only two army officers, 12 national police officers and 75 members of armed groups were convicted of torture.
The report flags that impunity creates an enabling environment for torture to continue and explains the distrust of the population towards law enforcement officers and the justice system.
“MONUSCO continues to support the government in its efforts to prevent and combat torture,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of MONUSCO Bintou Keita said.
She further emphasized that “the follow-up committees on human rights violations attributable to the national army and the police, created by the national authorities and supported by MONUSCO, have proven useful in supporting training in this area and ensuring follow-up on cases of torture.”
“Torture can never be justified, no matter the circumstances or the context. The DRC authorities must act with urgency and determination to put an end to this scourge,” Acting UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif said.
Recognising the efforts undertaken by the DRC Government, such as the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the creation of the National Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CNPT), “much more remains to be done to effectively prevent, eradicate and prosecute torture in the country,” the Acting UN Human Rights Chief noted.
Al-Nashif added that the DRC Government has been engaging in recent years with different parts of the UN human rights system, including the Committee against Torture and the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review with a view to adapting its legislation and practices so that they comply with international law regarding the prevention and eradication of torture.
“These entities have outlined specific recommendations to end torture once and for all, but few have been actually implemented. Doing so is key to preventing yet more people becoming victims of torture and cruelty. The UN Human Rights Office stands ready to help the DRC in this challenging but crucial endeavour,” she concluded.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).