UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: No democratisation progress - Garreton
NAIROBI, 9 September (IRIN) - The use of the death penalty has resumed in government areas of the DRC, while rebel forces have continued to commit civilian massacres in the east, UN Human Rights Rapporteur Roberto Garreton told IRIN on Thursday.
"Impunity reigns everywhere," Garreton said following his recent mission to the country. "It's true some soldiers have been incarcerated, but that's for things like diversion of funds or for being ex-FAZ [Forces armees zairoises], not for human rights violations."
Garreton travelled to Kinshasa, Goma and Bukavu between 27 August and 6 September. He also spent one day in Kampala, Uganda, where he met Congolese human rights workers who had been forced to flee rebel areas for fear of persecution after Garreton had interviewed them during his previous DRC visit in February.
"There is a conception among rebel authorities in the east that all those who don't agree with them are genocidaires or instigators of ethnic hatred," Garreton said, citing the recent closing of Radio Maendeleo as an example. The level of persecution of journalists and human rights activists remains serious on both sides of the country, he added.
In Kinshasa, Garreton discussed democratisation efforts, among other issues, with President Laurent-Desire Kabila. "I did not see any progress in the democratisation process. And when we don't advance in that area, that is a setback for other areas like human rights," he said.
"After six months, we are still in the preparatory phase for the national debate," Garreton said. "Everyone must participate in the organisation of the debate, even in the setting of the agenda, and that is not the case." He added that he felt the proposed debate was different from the inter-Congolese negotiations called for in the Lusaka ceasefire agreement.
Garreton said he was pleased with recent measures to relocate ethnic Tutsis under "protective custody" in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi to other countries, adding that those with Congolese nationality had been given the right to return to their country in the future.
The rapporteur, who is due to present his report to the UN General Assembly in November, said the UN Human Rights Commission in April had also mandated him to reestablish the commission of inquiry into alleged massacres of Hutu refugees in the DRC during the Kabila-led ADFL [Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo] rebellion in 1996-97. That investigation, which had been consistently obstructed by the DRC authorities, is to resume once a ceasefire and adequate security conditions are in place. "That is really not the case yet," he said.
Nevertheless, Garreton said he was confident a conclusive investigation into the alleged massacres could eventually be carried out. "Today in my country, Chile, we continue to find corpses from the Pinochet era," Garreton said, noting that neither time nor rains could destroy all massacre evidence.
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