The Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville or the Congo, faces increasing restrictions on press freedom and political opponents.
The Republic of Congo is a parliamentary republic with a population of 3.7 million. Most authority and political power is vested in President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, one of the longest serving leaders in Africa after first coming to power over three decades ago. Principal human rights concerns include restrictions on freedom of press, assembly, expression, and movement; poor prison conditions; ethnic discrimination and failure to protect asylum-seekers.
In the July 2009 presidential election, President Sassou-Nguesso was selected to a new term. This election was marred by the lack of an independent electoral commission, the disqualification of several opposition candidates, and the intimidation of journalists. After his election, Sassou-Nguesso eliminated the position of prime minister, further concentrating executive power in his own hands. A postelection demonstration by the opposition was forcefully halted by the police, and opposition leaders were barred from leaving the country.
Press freedom is increasingly restricted. Police harassment and violence against journalists was has increased since the 2009 presidential campaign period, Speech that incites ethnic hatred, violence, or civil war is illegal. The government controls broadcast media.
As in prior years, government security forces used excessive force to suppress peaceful demonstrations. Members of opposition political parties were denied the rights to freedom of assembly, expression and movement.
After using tear gas and live ammunition to disperse a demonstration against the July 2009 elections, injuring some, the government banned all opposition demonstrations and restricted travel of opposition leaders.
Prison conditions in Congo are harsh and often inhumane. They are overcrowded and lack food and medical care for inmates. Brazzaville central prison, originally built for 100 inmates, holds more than 500 prisoners. Women and men, as well as juveniles and adults, are incarcerated together, and rape is common.
Members of the minority Pigmy ethnic group continue to be subject to discrimination, enslavement and exploitation of members of the minority Pygmy ethnic group by members of other dominant ethnic groups.
Three former members of the security forces from the DRC continue to be held without charge or trial at the Brazzaville headquarters of the military intelligence service known as the Direction centrale des renseignements militaires (DGRM). Germain Ndabamenya Etikilome, Médard Mabwaka Egbonde and Bosch Ndala Umba appear to be held at the request of the DRC government.