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Groups Urge UN To Spotlight Human Rights In Congo

UN chief and rights commissioner urged to convene Human Rights Council on Congo killings

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Geneva, November 18. 2008 — As UN chief Ban Ki-moon and rights commissioner Navi Pillay meet in Geneva today with world leaders to inaugurate a controversial new chamber for the UN Human Rights Council, human rights groups urged them to turn the international spotlight toward the human rights catastrophe in the Congo. The joint letter sent today by Freedom House and UN Watch follows below.

November 18, 2009

United Nations High Commissoner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Dear Secretary-General Ban and High Commissioner Pillay,

As you gather today with world leaders to celebrate the new chamber of the UN Human Rights Council, we urge you to take advantage of this moment to turn the international spotlight toward the human rights catastrophe in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Mass displacement, killings and sexual violence—involving hundreds of thousands of victims, if not more—require an urgent response by the UN Human Rights Council.

We urge you to use your moral voice today by calling on the Council to immediately convene a special session for the desperate victims in the Congo. The procedure requires support from a mere one third of the Council’s 47 members. We are certain that 16 state members can be found to endorse such an initiative. If you lead, they will surely follow. If not, inaction and indifference are likely to prevail.

Precedent shows that you can have a powerful impact. Appeals issued by both your predecessors, Kofi Annan and Louise Arbour, helped pressure Council members in 2006 to convene a special session for the victims of Darfur. We urge you to do no less today for the victims in the Congo.

Such a session should immediately reinstate the human rights monitor for the DRC, whose recent elimination by the Council, which deferred to the DRC government’s opposition to any independent monitoring, was unconscionable. Further, in voting to scrap the mandate, Council members at the March 2008 session made baseless attacks on the mandate-holder, Titinga Frédéric Pacéré, and false claims about the human rights situation in the DRC.

Tunisia’s Ali Cherif spoke of “the positive developments in the human rights situation there”—indeed, “remarkable progress”—and chastised the expert because such “improvements” were “not duly reflected in [his] report.” Algeria, too, 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 promoting 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, and the Council duly eliminated this independent voice for DRC victims.

We note with deep concern that since the June 2007 reform package, the Council has gradually eliminated human rights monitoring mandates for victims in Belarus, Cuba, Liberia, DRC, and Darfur. The general mandate on Sudan is slated for elimination this March. Few remain. If the Council is to have any credibility, we must turn this dynamic around.

Consequently, we urge you today to call on Council members to meet urgently in special session to address the plight of hundreds of thousands of victims in the DRC. Your moral voice can help to stop the atrocities in DRC—but you must act now.

Hillel Neuer
United Nations Watch

Paula Schriefer
Freedom House


UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).

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