NREF: 06/COJESKI/NK/03/2023 Date: 7th /03/2023
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in the World
Geneva, Here is also the attachment ” UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON REFUGEE HRDS IN DRCONGO
The MONUSCO Representative in DRCongo
The United Nations Human Rights Offices in DRCongo,
The European Union Mission in DRCongo,
All Defend Defenders Human Rights Organizations operating in DRCongo,
Re: Open letter to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders: Engage His Excellency President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo to ensure the protection of Refugee Rights Human Rights Defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Dear Special Rapporteur,
We the Collective of Youth Organizations for Solidarity in the Democratic Republic of Congo known as COJESKI/DRC, launched a refugee rights programme in 2021 which is spearheaded by our Provincial Coordination of North Kivu under the Project called “Global Refugee Leaders Forum” which seeks to promote, protect and defend refugee rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular and in great lakes region in general, as part our contribution towards all efforts aiming at the effective protection of each refugee in order to restore in the country.
We believe that the effective protection of all refugees is one among the best ways to restore peace in DRCongo and to reduce the current tensions between DRCongo and Rwanda which has been caused by the presence of abandoned Rwandan refugees since 1994 up to now. We are advocating for the identification of all refugees, the recognition of their current places of residence as transit settings, the relocation of refugees far from the borders, the humanitarian relief aid to all refugees, the well-being of refugees in DRCongo, durable solutions to refugees and all issues about justice and reparation among others.
On Tuesday February 28th, 2023 we listed and read through various media about the Speech of His Excellence Felix Tshisekedi the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo made in Geneva during the 52nd Conference of the United Nations Human Rights Council, where he briefed the delegates about the situation of human rights in the country which he described as entirely positive, claiming that reforms have significantly brought in improvements. Surprisingly this happens in Geneva where the United Nations Human Rights Council which has a strong team in DRCongo is permanently documenting various human rights abuses, was present and decided to remain silent, that strategy of silence does not favor the promotion, protection and the defense of human rights rather gives a wrong impression that the situation is fine and may mislead those who are not familiar with the Democratic Republic of Congo who we all owe the duty to ensure they have credible information.
His Excellency the President talked also about the current law in the parliament aiming at the protection of Human Rights Defenders which is highly appreciated but as believes Amnesty International “the gun in itself is not a problem, however the gun becomes a problem when there is someone holding it in bad intension”. It is similar with the laws in DRCongo, especially in the East where in North Kivu there are local provincial arrangements which seek the protection of human rights defenders but not much effective.
Let us bring to your attention once again and repeat the same information and the same human rights abuses that have been documented by the United Nations Human Rights Office in DRCongo against Refugee Rights Defenders, since his Excellency Felix Tshisekedi took power, this has continued regardless of numerous promises and public speeches of good intentions.
As Forum, we alerted about the break-into in our offices in Goma in April 2021 by unknown persons, the various threats, intimidations and arbitrary arrests of our staffs engaged in the promotion of refugee rights by the very National Intelligence Agency known as ANR which is directly attached to the Presidency, the deportation of vocal refugee leaders to Rwanda by the Military Intelligence of SOKOLA2 in North Kivu, arbitrary arrests of refugees by the Police on orders from the General Directorate of Migration known as DGM in North Kivu, as we speak two Vocal Refugee Leaders are still on Court-Bail in Goma arrested arbitrary by the Police on orders from the Head of the Congolese National Commission for Refugees, the exclusion of vocal refugees from participating in refugee leadership, and the manipulation of various security services by the National Commission for Refugees known as CNR, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo who continue using their power and influence in order to silence those who believe in refugee rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which UNHCR Sub-Region Representative in Goma described in 2021 as “ engaging on refugee rights is crossing the red-line and should not be tolerated”.
We obviously note some progress since Felix Tshisekedi took power in 2019 in reduction of ANR and other security agencies human rights abuses but at the same time we observe the culture of impunity that surrounds perpetrators of human rights violations yet they are all well-known agents of various security agencies, state agents and international agency agents.
We appreciate the United Nations Human Rights Council that extended the invitation to President Felix Tshisekedi and we remain expectant of his good intentions to end human rights violations in the country in general and in particular to end abuses against those who defend the rights of refugees, some are still hiding up to now because they are harassed by the security services.
Despite the broader definition of who a human rights defender is as made by the United Nations we are deeply concerned that over the years those who stand for refugee rights in the great lakes region are often not taken into consideration and that has exposed them more risks and marginalization. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders seems also to remain silent of the situation of refugee rights human rights defenders in the great lakes region. This might have contributed to the current culture of stigmatization, exclusion, and discrimination against refugee rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo in particular and in the great lakes region in general, where such acts are justified by certain actors as “because of our organization policy and mandate, we cannot support you”. As per now no refugee rights human rights defender facing serious security threats has enjoyed the solidarity from other fellow human rights defenders locally, nationally, regionally and internationally.
We therefore call upon for the following:
To officially engage His Excellency President Felix Tshisekedi to hold accountable all security agency staff members that have committed human rights violations against refugee rights defenders, and ensure that all the victims are secure and rendered justice through reparation,
To engage His Excellency President Felix Tshisekedi to continue making reforms in various security services by removing all those who served in various rebel groups, and deploy well trained security officers,
To engage the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to end the traffic of influence to various security services in order to harass refugee rights defenders, to hold accountable UNHCR officers who support the persecution of refugee rights defenders, to deploy UNHCR officers who support refugee rights, and to stop collaboration with Government Agencies that violates human rights especially the National Commission for Refugees known as (CNR) in DRCongo,
To advocate and engage various Actors especially Development Partners, organizations that operate in the protection of Human Rights Defenders to put a particular attention on the situation of all those who are engaged in the promotion, the protection and the defense of refugee rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the great lakes region,
To make all necessary advocate and follow-up to ensure that all necessary measures are taken towards refugee rights defenders in difficult situation in DRCongo and in the region, and to encourage all stakeholders to abolish policies that favor discrimination against refugee rights defenders in DRCongo and in the region,
To deploy a team in the Democratic Republic of Congo that will document various human rights violations with a particular focus on Human Rights Defenders engaged in refugee rights in order to provide a wider view of the plight of refugee rights defenders,
Kulihoshi Musikami Pecos
Refugee Programme Officer