from JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA, (CAJ News) – SECURITY forces have allegedly killed two human rights activists and arbitrarily detained dozens of others on trumped-up charges as authorities reportedly use a state of emergency to crush dissent in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The state of emergency – known locally as a state of siege- has been in force since May 2021 in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.
It was enforced to eradicate banditry by armed groups.
However, Amnesty International alleged the military and police authorities had used sweeping powers to silence individuals deemed critical of the state.
Members of parliament, pro-democracy activists and human rights workers have been targeted.
“In total disregard of the law, defence 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 accountability for the state’s actions in the conflict-stricken provinces of North Kivu and Ituri,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
President Felix Tshisekedi declared that he introduced the state of siege with the aim to combat armed groups and protect civilians.
The number of civilian casualties from armed conflict in the region, however, has more than doubled in the past year.
Between June 2020 and March 2021, 559 civilians were killed amid armed conflict in Ituri and North-Kivu.
According to the United Nations, the number of civilian deaths between June 2021 and March 2022 rose to at least 1 261.
Killings, massacres, rapes and robberies have intensified in the areas concerned, according to an August 2021 report by the National Assembly’s Defence and Security Committee.
Among other violations, a 21-year-old activist working with the Fight for Change (LUCHA) movement, had his right leg amputated after being shot by a
Four provincial MPs and one national MP have been arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted.
In addition, journalists have faced repeated attacks for doing their work, including by non-state actors.
At least three journalists have been killed in Ituri and North Kivu since the state of emergency, according to the Journalistes En Danger (JED).
– CAJ News