Human rights overview 2o22President Denis Sassou Nguesso has maintained nearly uninterrupted power for over 40 years by severely repressing the opposition. Corruption and decades of political instability have contributed to poor economic performance and high levels of poverty. Abuses by security forces are frequently reported and rarely investigated. Freedom of assembly was restricted, and security forces beat up people in detention. The country passed a law on gender-based violence; however, discrimination against women was still widespread. Obstacles remained to the availability and accessibility of healthcare, and there were reports of environmental degradation.
BACKGROUNDIn July, the ruling party won 111 of 151 seats in the parliamentary elections more than one year after President Denis Sassou Nguesso was re-elected as head of state, serving his fourth consecutive term in office after 36 years in power. The results were confirmed by the Constitutional Court in August, rejecting 30 annulment appeals filed by several candidates. On 21 January, the International Monetary Fund granted an extended credit facility of USD 455 million to the Congolese state, accompanied by the requirement that the country carries out reforms to improve the governance of public funds. Several members of the family of the president were still under investigation before the French justice system over allegations of corruption.
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND ASSEMBLYCongolese activists tried to organize a demonstration in the capital, Brazzaville, on 8 April to protest against the poor quality of services provided by the national electricity company. The announcement was made online and an authorization was requested from the prefecture beforehand. On 6 April the prefect of the department banned the demonstration on grounds of public order. In defiance of this ban, on 8 April the organizer went to the demonstration site, where he was arrested by police and held for several hours before being released. He reported that he had been beaten while in detention.
ARBITRARY DETENTION, TORTURE AND OTHER ILL-TREATMENTJean-Marie Michel Mokoko, a candidate in the 2016 presidential election, was still in detention, despite the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considering his detention as arbitrary. He was sentenced in 2018 to 20 years’ imprisonment for “undermining the internal security of the state” and “illegal possession of weapons and munitions of war”. According to the Center of Development Actions (CAD) and the Congolese Human Rights Observatory, the Congolese police beat up three people in Brazzaville in early January, causing the death of one of them. After the publication of the video of the incident on social networks, four police officers were sentenced to 10 years in prison on 9 February for deliberate assault and battery causing death and the state was ordered to pay damages.
WOMEN’S RIGHTSIn March, Congo passed the “Mouébara law” on combating violence against women, including domestic violence. It included provisions on prevention; protection of victims; medical, psychological, social and legal support to victims; and penalties for perpetrators of up to 20 years in prison. The law notably included specific provisions to protect widows’ rights in inheritance. The report Women, Business and the Law 2022 produced by the World Bank, which assesses laws that can have an impact on economic opportunities for women, indicated that the legal framework in Congo is detrimental to women’s economic rights. The report highlighted many areas in need of improvement, including gender inequality in property and inheritance.
RIGHT TO HEALTHIn early 2022, a measles epidemic took hold in Congo. According to a statement by the minister of health in April, the department of Pointe-Noire was the epicenter of the epidemic with 5,488 notified cases, including 112 deaths. A national vaccination plan against measles and yellow fever was launched on 15 August. According to a statement by the minister of health in March, maternal, neonatal and infant death rates increased due to the coronavirus pandemic and delays in measles vaccination. In 2021, maternal mortality deaths rose to 445 per 100,000 births, up from 378 per 100,000 births in 2020. According to the local NGO CAD, the health situation in Congo remained fragile; the organization highlighted the lack of beds in several health centers and accessibility problems in certain areas due to the remoteness of some communities, lack of transport and/or poor road conditions.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATIONAccording to a statement by the Departmental Directorate of the Environment in June, the Loubi lagoon in Pointe-Noire department had been cleaned up in accordance with Congolese standards. This followed a complaint filed in 2016 by the local association Youth for Life in Kouilou against an oil company, denouncing two crude oil spills into the Loubi lagoon in 2004 and 2011. In March 2019, the Pointe-Noire court of justice ordered the company to resume clean-up operations in the lagoon and pay XAF 50 million (approximately USD 77,600) for “moral damage” to Youth for Life in Kouilou and XAF 150 million (approximately USD 232,800) for environmental damage. The company appealed against the decision. The residents of the Vindoulou neighborhood in the Loango sub-prefecture continued to complain to the authorities about environmental damage caused by a metal and battery recycling company operating near homes and schools in their area since 2012. They claimed that the factory caused major air pollution and discharged massive quantities of oil into the streets. The Prefect of Kouilou had ordered the closure of the factory in August 2020 for a period of three months for non-compliance with environmental legislation. The company resumed its activities in November 2020 following an agreement by the Ministry of the Environment, Sustainable Development and the Congo Basin but without carrying out the necessary improvements according to the residents. Medical samples were taken during the same period by the Departmental Health Directorate, but the results were not published.
Protect Detainees at Risk of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa, Unclog Prisons and Release Prisoners of Conscience
April 20, 2020 – at-risk detainees
Republic of Congo: Air strikes hit residential areas including schools
April 18, 2016
Amnesty International’s Annual State of the World Report Slams Governments, Including the U.S., for Global Assault on Freedoms
February 22, 2016
Amnesty International State of the World 2015-2016
February 18, 2016 – Annual Report
Your rights in jeopardy, global assault on freedoms, warns Amnesty International
February 18, 2016 – State of the World 2015
Restraint in Congo Brazzaville needed as protesters clash with security forces
October 20, 2015
State of the World 2014/2015
February 25, 2015
Annual Report: Congo 2013
May 17, 2013
Annual Report: Congo (Republic Of) 2011
June 16, 2011
Congo: Order to Attack Village in January Resulted in the Rapes of More than 35 Women
March 27, 2011
Human rights concerns in the run up to Presidential election campaigns in the DRC
March 27, 2011
Amnesty International Demands Investigation Into Death of Leading Human Rights Activist in Congo
March 27, 2011