Lack of independence of courts, violations of the rights of defendants, unavailability of legal aid, and corruption were some of the factors hindering fair trials.
The fundamentally flawed Congolese military justice system maintained exclusive jurisdiction over the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes – including in cases with civilian defendants.
The prison system continued to be severely under-funded, failing to address decaying facilities, overpopulation and extremely poor hygiene conditions. Dozens of inmates died in prisons or hospitals as a consequence of malnutrition and a lack of appropriate medical care. Insecurity for detainees was increased by a failure to effectively separate women from men, pre-trial detainees from convicted prisoners, and members of the military from civilians.
Human rights defenders
The security situation for human rights defenders in the east deteriorated throughout the year. Defenders faced increasing intimidation and were often subjected to arbitrary arrests or death threats by state security forces, the M23, and unidentified armed men, severely hindering their work.
From July, when the M23 took control of Rutshuru town in North Kivu, human rights defenders had to close their offices. Many fled after they received repeated death threats through text messages, anonymous phone calls, and visits at night by armed men. Similarly, at the end of November when the M23 took temporary control of Goma, many human rights defenders based in the town fled for safety.
On 6 December, the National Assembly adopted a law establishing the National Commission on Human Rights. The Commission, if created, would seek to help authorities meet their human rights obligations.
Arbitrary arrests and detentions
Arbitrary arrests and detentions continued to be systemic throughout the country. Security services, in particular the national police, the intelligence services, the national army and the migration police, carried out arbitrary arrests and, frequently, extorted money and other items of value from civilians during law enforcement operations or at checkpoints. In the western provinces in particular, security forces carried out arbitrary arrests for private interests, or to obtain illegal payments.
Political opposition activists were subjected to arbitrary arrests during the post-electoral period. An opposition leader was arrested in February by security services and allegedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated before being released a few days later.
- Political opponent Eugène Diomi Ndongala went missing on 27 June on his way to sign a coalition charter with other political parties. He was released 100 days later, having been detained incommunicado by the intelligence services (Agence nationale de renseignements) in Kinshasa without access to his family, lawyer or a doctor, despite a chronic medical condition.
Freedom of expression
Freedom of expression was significantly curtailed, particularly in the post-electoral period and following increasing control of the east by M23. The main targets were political opponents and journalists who were threatened or arbitrarily arrested. TV, radio and newspaper outlets were subjected to arbitrary suspension of their operations by the authorities, as well as arson attacks and other damage to their premises by unidentified actors.
- On 30 November, the Superior Audiovisual and Communication Council suspended Radio Okapi’s broadcast in Kinshasa without notification following a radio show featuring an interview with an M23 spokesperson.
On 10 July, the International Criminal Court sentenced Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the alleged founder and president of the Union of the Congolese Patriots and commander in chief of its armed wing, the FPLC, to 14 years in prison. On 14 March, he had been convicted of the war crimes of conscripting and enlisting children under the age of 15 and using them to participate actively in hostilities in Ituri district.
On 13 July, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Sylvestre Mudacumura, alleged commander of the armed branch of the FDLR, for nine counts of war crimes allegedly committed between January 2009 and September 2010 in eastern DRC.