The Human Rights Committee this morning completed its consideration of the fourth periodic report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on its implementation of the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Presenting the report, Marie-Ange Mushobekwa, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that the Government had taken several legislative, judiciary and administrative measures to give effect to the rights recognized by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, noting that the right to equality and the principle of non-discrimination were at the centre of human rights. The Government was determined to examine the crimes committed by the mystical tribal movement called Kamuina Nsapu and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Notwithstanding those inquiries, the Government was waiting for the arrival of an expert team of the United Nations and the African Union, in order to provide technical assistance to the country and determine responsibility concerning the events in the Kasai province. As for the fight against sexual violence, it remained at the centre of the Government's efforts. Ms. Mushobekwa reaffirmed the policy of zero tolerance vis-à-vis sexual violence, noting that significant progress had been achieved in the past months.
In the ensuing discussion, Experts praised the activities of various non-governmental organizations, and welcomed the moratorium on the death penalty, and the adoption of a law for the establishment of the national human rights commission. At the same time, they reminded of the conclusions of the so-called mapping report of 2010, namely that impunity had encouraged new human rights violations, and that it was necessary to set up a holistic policy for transitional justice. Experts highlighted the issue of fair elections and the mandate of the current President. They noted that several candidates had encountered problems with law and order forces, had disappeared and allegedly been tortured. They wondered whether judicial institutions used those procedures to prevent certain candidates from running for election. Experts also raised concern about harmful practices against women, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, gender-based violence, enforced disappearances and summary executions, abortion, protection of civilians in conflict zones, arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, events in Kinshasa in September 2016 and across the country in December 2016, recruitment of child soldiers, restrictions on peaceful assemblies and demonstrations, the ban on political rallies, harassment and threats against journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents, and the rights of indigenous peoples.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Mushobekwa thanked Committee Experts for their constructive criticism, noting that the questions they had raised were in the minds of young Africans. She noted that it would be good if the Committee allowed the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make more progress in order not to have to repeat the same things every year.
Yuji Iwasawa, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their very detailed and frank responses. The Committee was aware of the challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the unstable situation, especially in the Kasai province. The Committee had exchanged views on customs, culture and the development of human rights. The Committee noted the progress made, and that customary courts had been replaced by ordinary courts. However, there were still concerns about many outstanding issues.
The delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Tuesday, 17 October, at 3 p.m. to consider the sixth periodic report of the Dominican Republic (CCPR/C/DOM/6).
The fourth periodic report of the Democratic Republic of the Congo can be read here: CCPR/C/COD/4.
Presentation of the Report
MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reminded that last year the Government had submitted to the Committee its fourth periodic report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since the submission, the Government had taken several legislative, judiciary and administrative measures to give effect to the rights recognized by the Covenant. The right to equality and the principle of non-discrimination, which were specifically set out in international and regional instruments on human rights, were thus at the centre of human rights. In order to conform with that principle, President Joseph Kabila had promulgated the law No. 16/008 of 15 July 2016, amending and completing the law No. 87-010 of 1 August 1987, and thus highlighting several weaknesses regarding the status of married women and of children. It was deemed necessary and urgent to change the Code in line with the Constitutional reforms of 18 February 2006, and in line with the legislative evolution with respect to the protection of the child. The new law amending the Code of 1987 sought to conform to the obligations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the two Covenants, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The main innovations introduced by the law No. 16/008 of 15 July 2016 were the elimination of the marital authorisation for married women, and spouses' acceptance of all judicial acts to which they were obliged individually or collectively, and the reaffirmation of the exclusive competence of courts for children in all cases with respect to the capacity of minors.
Ms. Mushobekwa reminded that last year, a mystical tribal movement called Kamuina Nsapu had used the civilian population and children as a human shield to attack public institutions symbolizing the State, and had spread terror by decapitating policemen. The Government was determined to examine those events and bring perpetrators to justice. Ms. Mushobekwa noted that several public processes had been opened to that end. Notwithstanding those inquiries, the Government was waiting for the arrival of an expert team of the United Nations and the African Union, in order to provide technical assistance to the country and determine responsibility concerning the events in the Kasai province. As for the fight against sexual violence, it remained at the centre of the Government's efforts. Ms. Mushobekwa reaffirmed its policy of zero tolerance vis-à-vis sexual violence. Significant progress had been achieved in the past months and the Democratic Republic of the Congo was no longer considered the capital of rape. In addition to the national policy for the reform of the justice system 2017-2026, there were plans, strategies and programmes in place for the implementation of the Covenant rights. Ms. Mushobekwa noted that the Government was resolutely committed to the electoral process.
Questions by Committee Experts
Experts regretted the lengthy period between the submission of reports by the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They praised the activity of various non-governmental organizations. Experts paid tribute to the role played by the personnel of the United Nations in the country, sometimes at the risk of their lives. The respect for human rights meant the end of impunity. Experts reminded of the conclusions of the so-called mapping report, conducted in 2010, namely that impunity had encouraged new human rights violations, and that it was necessary to set up a holistic policy for transitional justice. Experts welcomed the moratorium on the death penalty, and the adoption of a law for the establishment of the national human rights commission.
Experts inquired about the follow-up to the Committee's recommendations, and the involvement of civil societyin that process. It appeared that non-governmental organizations wanting to take part in the preparation of the report had not been able to obtain entry visas to come to the country.
As for the constitutional and legal framework, further efforts needed to be carried out to encourage the authorities to refer to the Covenant and relevant international instruments. With respect to customary law and courts, had they been eliminated? What initiatives had been taken to identify and resolve any potential incompatibility between customary law and the Covenant?
With regard to the national human rights commission, although its budget seemed rather large, it appeared that the funds were not entirely allocated to the commission and that, in fact, the commission had not received any funds at all. How much did the commission need to ensure that it could carry out its work effectively?
There had been very scant information about the follow-up to the Committee's recommendations. The Committee had previously recommended that the Democratic Republic of the Congo discuss potential means of implementation.
As for the voluntary termination of pregnancy, Experts noted that the criminalization of abortion could lead to unsafe abortions. Some 50 per cent of abortions were carried put in Kinshasa. Access to legal abortion remained ineffective in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whereas access to contraceptives remained insufficient.
With respect to the prohibition of torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, what were the measures taken to implement the latest law prohibiting torture, especially in cases when torture was perpetrated by State actors? There were no specific statistics on the prosecution of torture cases. What was the State party's comment on information that people had died in prisons as a result of torture and ill treatment? A national prevention mechanismwas instrumental in preventing torture. However, it seemed it had not been established yet.
Speaking of gender equality and harmful practices, Experts inquired about the provisions of the latest legislation of 15 July 2016, namely whether the law had already been implemented. Was the legislative framework sufficiently disseminated and were women aware of their rights? Did people really understand the new law, not just women but also competent authorities?
Were practical measures able to stamp out harmful practices, such as polygamy, early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation? Did the State party plan to take measures to ensure that the new legal provisions were effectively applied? Was there information about the number of women affected by female genital mutilation? What were the hotspots of female genital mutilation in the country? Had any prosecutions been carried out to punish perpetrators of such practices? What were the possibilities for women to receive assistance and legal support, especially when they were in vulnerable situations?
The Committee had received information that many albino adults and childrenhad been victims of attacks, violence and attempted kidnapping. Had the State party taken particular measures to fight those incidents? Had it conducted awareness raising? Had it set up comprehensive legislation to root out discrimination against albino children and adults, as well as against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons?
Experts noted very little progress in strengthening the representation of womenin public and political life. Only six Government ministers were women. There were no provisions for women standing for elections, and there was no mention about the equal access of women to education.
The State party's answers about domestic violence against womenwere not specific. What sentences were envisioned for marital rapeand were there public awareness campaigns on domestic violence? Could women lodge complaints for domestic violence and had there been any prosecutions carried out?
One million cases of sexual and gender-based violencehad been registered since 2009 as a result of the armed conflict. It appeared that most cases had been perpetrated by the military. Sexual violence continued to be used as a weapon of war. What was the state of play of the application of relevant laws? Were there any statistics on the implementation of the law? What was the status of the national strategy to combat sexual- and gender-based violence? What outcomes had been obtained and what part of the territory had been covered? Was there any link between various actions taken? What was the number of soldiers involved in sexual violence? What sentences had been handed down? Did the Government intend to encourage victims to come forward? What were stigmatisation risks for victims? What reparation schemeswere available to victims? How many victims had benefited from being reintegrated?
As for mobile courts, how were they scattered across the national territory? What was the rank of these courts? Did the State party intend to invest further in order to reach remote areas of the country?
With respect to enforced disappearances and summary executions, why had the relevant inquiries not been concluded? How many perpetrators of the events in Kinshasa of September 2016, country-wide incidents of December 2016, and the Operation Likofi of 15 November 2015, had been prosecuted? Experts reminded the Government of the Committee's previous concluding observations to investigate all events and provide appropriate compensation to victims and their families. What did the Government mean by "negative forces"?
State agents had been responsible for 64 per cent of the recorded human rights violations in the country, namely the national police and the military. The violence perpetrated by soldiers in the Kasai province had not been subject to reliable and genuine investigation. The authorities were not very diligent in opening relevant investigations, and they also prevented others from carrying out the necessary verification, such as visits to hospitals and morgues. Those restrictions ran counter to the agreements signed by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government. What was the delegation's reaction to impunity and the refusal of the authorities to allow the necessary verification of events?
As for the death penalty, what was the number of death penalties handed down in recent years and what was the state of play of national consultations on the issue of capital punishment?
The Organic Act No. 13/011B on the legal competence of courts to try international crimes had major difficulties, such as the fact that it did not get rid of the competence of military courts. What was the level of implementation of the new law on the competence of courts dealing with international crimes?
As for the protection of civilians in conflict areas, since 2006 the situation had gotten worse. Some 2.6 million people had been considered internally displaced. There was no legal system to provide the civilian population with protection. Did the State party intend to adopt any new laws? The security situation had been severely exacerbated in several parts of the country, particularly in the Kasai province. Since August 2016, more than 80 mass graves had been discovered in that province. Without doubt, those crimes could be international crimes in their nature, as well as crimes against humanity. Had arrest warrants against the perpetrators been sent out?
Was the Government able to make operational the agreement with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to conduct impartial investigations of human rights abuses? Was the Government still willing to withdraw restrictions and threats that could hinder credible investigations, as well as the investigation of the killing of two United Nations experts? What measures had the Government taken to ensure the return of displaced persons? It seemed that high ranking military and security officials had been involved in the crimes. What measures had been undertaken to follow up on the recommendations to prosecute perpetrators?
Replies by the Delegation
MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, reminded that three Congolese nationals accompanying the two United Nations experts had also been killed, and noted that their families also deserved the right to find their bodies. Peace and reconciliation required justice. The Government was doing its utmost to shed light on all the atrocities committed in the Kasai provinceover the past year. The Government had already opened inquiries, some of which had concluded, such as the arrest of the perpetrators of the killings in a village in eastern Kasai. Nine out of 11 responsible soldiers had been tried and convicted. Two perpetrators still had not been identified. The justice system had also started its investigations into crimes committed in central Kasai. All suspects would be prosecuted and tried by Congolese courts. Ms. Mushobekwa did not agree that the Government was not in a hurry to investigate crimes, which should be called terrorist acts. Investigations of such cases in Western countries took several years. Thus it was not reasonable to expect that similar investigations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo would take only several months. If investigations were conducted hastily, innocent people would get hurt. Finally, procedures needed to be respected.
As for the events in the Kasai province, the Government had nothing to hide because it had allowed international experts to come and conduct investigations. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo should not be forced to accept what was unacceptable in other countries. Terrorist groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo brought machetes to markets and killed people.
As for the amendments to the Family Code, Ms. Mushobekwa noted that those changes had been brought in line with the Labour Code. The moratorium on the death penalty had been in place for 14 years. The Government was trying to evolve and move forward. There were those in favour of the death penalty, as well as those against. That debate was ongoing worldwide in the context of terrorism, and it should correspond to the country's context.
Speaking of the national commission for human rights, Ms. Mushobekwa explained that its budget had not been fully received because the country was facing budgetary problems. The Government had to make very difficult choices. The Government had to defend the territorial integrity of the country and of its people and foreigners who resided in the country. It also had to focus on healthcare and education. The Government thus tried to strike a balance. Ms. Mushobekwa noted that she was aware of the commission's importance and that it be present in all of the provinces.
Civil societyneeded to be involved in the preparation of the country's report and in the work of the Government. It played an important role in opening the Government's eyes. Ms. Mushobekwa promised that upon her return to the country she would work to improve the participation of civil society. The Government appreciated the work of international non-governmental organizations, but sometimes they became activists of the opposition.
As for customary law and courts, they had been substituted by peace tribunals. That was a process and things could not change overnight. The country would move forward gradually, but the Government did not have a magic wand to change things immediately. People and customary chiefs needed to understand that customary law could not take precedence over State law. That process would take a lot of time.
Abortionwas prohibited by the Criminal Code in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government would need to ascertain whether the society would accept abortion. Religion was very important in the country and, like in some Western countries, such as France, abortion would take a long time to be accepted. Likewise, homosexualityhad been considered unacceptable in the Western world for a long time. Human beings were not machines; they had their own customs and laws. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was not ready to accept abortion and homosexuality at the moment.
Ms. Mushobekwa said that the rate of unwanted pregnanciesin Kinshasa cited by Experts was far too high. The Government could introduce sexual education to children in schools, even though the society might oppose it. The Government would not recommend contraceptives to children because the culture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was different. Under law, sexual relations with a minor was defined as rape, but abortion would still be banned in that case. The Government did not have exact statistics on women dying during labour, but it did recognize that problem. There were proposals that all women be allowed to give birth in hospitals for free. However, that would require significant financial resources.
As for the implementation of the law prohibiting torture, Ms. Mushobekwa acknowledged that the law was not sufficiently understood throughout the country. The Government needed to say clearly that torture was a crime under the law in all its forms. There were no forced marriagesin the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If there were any, they were perpetrated by armed groups. The Family Code also prohibited polygamy, and female genital mutilationdid not exist in the country.
There was no discrimination against albino adults and children; they were integrated in society. Ms. Mushobekwa said she had not heard of any murders of or attacks on albino persons.
Ms. Mushobekwa said that it was unfortunate that there were only six women out of 57 members of the Government. It was not due to the lack of skills and qualifications, but to the fact that women had to make more effort. Women in politicshad to be able to withstand constant attacks and criticism. That was the unfortunate state of affairs. Women had to struggle to reach the recommended 30 per cent of women in the Government. There were guarantees for the equal participation of womenin the labour market and in education. All the laws provided women with equal opportunities, but it was the society that forced women to fight for their rights.
Domestic violencewas a result of culture; people needed to be educated, Ms. Mushobekwa noted. Marital raperemained a taboo, which was why the Government had no relevant statistics.
Ms. Mushobekwa, responding to the question about sexual and gender-based violence in the armed conflict and the school environment, said that it was well known that many armed groups operated throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly in the east of the country. Many militants from Rwanda and other countries had come to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and unfortunately they raped women. The Government had tried to disarm those groups and the President had appointed a special representative to fight sexual violence. The Government had made that fight a priority of the highest order. The United Nations had acknowledged that the rate of sexual violence in the country had decreased by 85 per cent over the past three years. Many militants had been convicted of having perpetrated sexual violence, regardless of their rank. In schools, it had happened that militias had been able to use children's naivety to commit sexual violence. But it had not been widespread. It was severely punished under the law.
Provincial technical committees established to fight sexual violence worked in all provinces of the country to carry out monitoring and to ensure that the local population was aware of the phenomenon and of the importance of fighting sexual violence. Many African countries facing the same problem could learn from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Government was endeavouring to remedy the situation and reach the level required by international standards. Given the large surface of the country and budgetary restraints, the Government was trying to ensure that mobile court hearingswere organized, and it encouraged victims to provide witness accounts. Some people, however, were ashamed and afraid of coming forward. The Government provided lawyers to those who could not afford one, as well as medical and psychological assistance to victims of sexual violence. As for the possibility of granting collective compensationto victims of sexual violence, Ms. Mushobekwa noted that no compensation could make up for their suffering, but added that it was very important to grant financial compensation. Even though the Government was mindful of that fact and it was willing to grant compensation, at the moment it could not do so due to budgetary restraints.
With respect to enforced disappearances, the Government was fully committed to ensure that the punishment fit the seriousness of the crime. Speaking of demonstrations in September of 2016, Ms. Mushobekwa explained that they had become violent as some military elements had infiltrated them. The Government had, thus, temporarily prohibited demonstrations in public areas for security reasons.
Second Round of Questions by Experts
Experts stressed that the Committee was aware of the unstable situation in the country and the challenges that the Government was coping with. The Committee aimed to conduct a dialogue with the State party, but it needed to establish certain facts. For example, there remained outstanding questions about discriminatory practicesagainst certain parts of the population, such as albino and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons.
What was the Government's position on the arrest of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons on the charges of public indecency, and what measures had the State party taken to protect the physical integrity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons?
They asked for facts and statistics on the State party's concrete measures to implement the Covenant. More information was requested on tangible details about the policies and measures adopted? As for abortion, what was the State party doing to protect women who were endangering their health and lives? What did the Government plan to do in the case of raped women?
Experts inquired about the independence of the judiciary, the number of judges and courts, and the protection of victims. It seemed that there had been no recruitment of judges since 2010-2011. Was the annual budget for the judiciary sufficient? Was it true that victims needed to provide low-income certificates in order to receive legal protection?
What was the reason behind the large number of detainees escaping prisons? Had investigations into those cases been carried out?
As for the recruitment of child soldiers, it seemed that there were still children in the ranks of certain armed groups. Was the relevant law fully operational and had all the courts for children been established, particularly in the most troubled regions? What measures had been taken to criminalise the acts of sexual violence against children?
With respect to combatting sexual and economic exploitation of children, the estimates derived from UNICEF cited 40,000 children working in the mining industry in the Katanga region. In 2017 the Committee on the Rights of the Child had also reaffirmed its concerns about child labour in the mining sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. What tangible measures did the State party plan to give effect to legislation governing child labour?
Experts underlined the need for a more comprehensive national framework for the protection of displaced persons, and to carry out a swift and independent inquiry into violations carried out in the Kasai province. What was the status of the judicial proceedings on the deaths of the two United Nations experts?
Some temporary detention facilitieshad been determined to be irregular, and a series of violations had been carried out in prisons. What measures had been taken to end temporary detention perpetrated by State officials, and to punish those responsible? Did the Government plan to close down the detention facilities that were not monitored? What steps had been taken to remedy the problem of prison overcrowding?
What had been done to ensure reasonable deadlines for pre-trial detention, the right to be informed about the reasons of arrest, and the right to be medically examined?
Was the Government prepared to improve detention conditions, which had led to the high number of deaths? Did the Government plan to introduce a mechanism to prevent torture and ill-treatment in detention? What efforts had been made to build new prisons?
Experts underlined the issue of elections and the mandate of the current President. What was the current state of play concerning the election schedule? Several candidates had encountered problems with law and order forces, had disappeared and allegedly been tortured. What were the offences that they had committed? Were judicial institutions using those procedures to prevent certain candidates from running for election?
The Government kept saying that militias had used violence and had committed atrocities. However, that was not the crux of the matter. The Committee asked about the prosecution of crimes committed by State actors. The State did not have the right to use the same means as terrorists.
As for the claim that some civil society organizationssupported the opposition, did the State party consider the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights part of the opposition and therefore biased, too?
With respect to the fate of street childrenand the fight against child trafficking networksin Kinshasa, what was the practical impact of adopted programmes? As for the so-called "witch children," accusations of witch craft had increased over the years. It seemed due to the proliferation of Christian fundamentalist and apocalyptic movements which appealed to the poor and engaged in practices that sometimes led to high levels of violence, which could be classified as torture.
There was a very low birth registrationof children under the age of five. Had there been tangible results of efforts to try to increase the birth registration rate?
The issue of domestic violencewas not included in the national strategy to combat gender-based violence. Did the Government plan to take any specific measures to tackle domestic violence?
Experts raised the issue of the capacity of the foreign media to broadcastin the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The pretext for restrictions was the impression that they sided with the opposition. What measures had been taken to support the freedom of the press and mass media? What was the role of the Higher Audiovisual and Communications Council? Did the State party intend to clarify and amend Ordinance-Law No. 300 of 16 December 1963 penalizing offences against the Head of State and put an end to the criminalization of defamation and press offences?
It had been reported that opposition demonstrations were almost always forbidden, while Government rallies were authorized. That did not support the argument that the reason for the ban was protecting public order and security. What measures did the Government plan to take to ensure the freedom of assemblyfor all political parties? The use of excessive forceby security forces to disperse rallies had been documented. What legal safeguards were in place to ensure that proportionate force was used?
As for the rights of indigenous peoples, displaced pygmy peoples lived in very precarious conditions. Were additional measures in the pipeline for the peaceful settlement of their right to land? Were statistics available to shed light on the access of indigenous peoples to health and education? What was the content of the draft law on the right of ethnic groups to preserve their cultures?
With respect to judicial harassment, threats and sometimes killings of journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents, why had there not been any inquires carried out into relevant allegations? What was the number of convictions handed down against journalists, human rights defenders and political opponents? It seemed that no State officials had been prosecuted for their involvement in the events of September 2016 in Kinshasa and throughout the country in December 2016. What was the role of the Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, namely its mandate and powers? What was the stage reached in the Parliament's adoption of the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Act?
Speaking of the fight against impunityfor the most serious crimes, Experts underlined the principle of complementarity between domestic and international justice. Responding to the delegation's assertion that it could not be expected from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to move with justice quicker than the International Criminal Court, Experts noted that there was no competition. Real inquires needed to be carried out and light needed to be shed on the crimes committed.
Replies by the Delegation
MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that some Congolese experts had not been able to travel to Geneva because they could not obtain a visa from the Swiss embassy. She reminded that one could not impose the thinking acceptable in one group of countries on the entire world. Give us time to evolve, she noted. Ms. Mushobekwa also wondered why acts of violence in Africa were being called rebellions, while in other countries they were called terrorism.
As for the protection of women who wanted abortion, the State could not do much because abortion was prohibited by the law. In case of rape, the judge would authorize abortion if the woman could not keep the baby.
There was a proposal to introduce a law to prohibit public hate speech against albino persons. The society in general did not discriminate against albino persons; there were isolated cases, but there was no alarming rate of discrimination against them. In the case of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, there was a general trend of discrimination because the society was not ready to accept them.
The Government continued to make efforts to ensure the independence of the judiciary. As for detainees escaping prisons, prison overcrowding was indeed a problem. The Government was also mindful that many people behind bars were innocent. Capacity-building for police officers and judges needed to be conducted in order to tackle that problem. New prisons were supposed to be constructed with the support of the European Union.
Criminal acts against childrenneeded to be criminalised. There were children working in mines, particularly in the Katanga region. One of the solutions to counter that problem would be to make school mandatory. Street childrenhad to be accommodated either in families or social structures. Many of them were called "witch children." The Minister of Justice was preparing an order to close down fanatic Christian churches that preyed on people's fears.
The Government had asked all villages and towns to issue birth certificatesfree of charge, but the satisfactory rate of birth registration had still not been reached. Perhaps one of the solutions would be to require the presentation of birth certificates for school enrolment.
Inquiries into the crimes committed in the Kasai provincehad started. Given that two United Nations experts had lost their lives there, the High Commissioner for Human Rights had asked for an international team of experts to be sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and help judges in those inquiries. The Government would provide them with all the necessary support, and it would ensure that the punishment corresponded to the seriousness of the crime. It was true that some State officers and officials had behaved badly, and they would be prosecuted. However, it was not true that the entire military was composed of thugs.
The Government was discussing the issue of illegal detention centres, and it would heed the Experts' comments about prison overcrowding. The professionalization of prison staff was something that needed to be looked at because prisons should not be places of terror.
As for the root causes of the crisis in the country and the President's mandate, Ms. Mushobekwa noted that the crisis had lasted for several years and it was not due solely to the lack of elections. The National Electoral Commission was concluding voters' registration at the moment. The delay in the registration was due to the fact that the Government had not been able to finalize the process without including the Kasai province, which accounted for 10 per cent of the country's electorate. The election date was imminent.
Ms. Mushobekwa clarified that many non-governmental organizationsin the Democratic Republic of the Congo played a constructive role. However, some were biased. It was true that journalists, human rights defenders and opposition members needed protection. Police officers needed to be trained so that they could better understand the role played by journalists, human rights defenders and opposition members. Certain opposition leaders had indeed been convicted of common law offences.
The role of the Higher Audiovisual and Communications Councilwas clearly defined under the law. Broadcasts considered immoral had been taken down, as well as those inciting hate speech. The Government also had to block certain social networks due to the fact that certain messages had been diffused, stirring up fear and violence. As for the prohibition of public demonstrations, it was a temporary measure.
As for the rights of indigenous peoplesand the land dispute between Bantu and pygmy communities in the Katanga province, it was up to the Government to resolve such issues. The pygmy people had the same rights as everyone else.
No member of the Government or the opposition would dare to propose a law on the recognition of same-sex couples, or any special protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The society was extremely hostile to homosexuality.
The Government had proved its good faith by ratifying the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Government was working to strengthen its judiciary so that the International Criminal Court did not have to get involved.
MARIE-ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister of Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked Committee Experts for their constructive criticism, noting that the questions they had raised were in the minds of young Africans. She noted that it would be good if the Committee allowed the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make more progress in order not to have to repeat the same things every year.
YUJI IWASAWA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the very detailed and frank responses. The Committee was aware of the challenges faced by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the unstable situation, especially in the Kasai province. The Committee had exchanged views on customs, culture and the development of human rights. The Committee noted the progress made, and that customary courts had been replaced by ordinary courts. However, there were still concerns about many outstanding issues.