Human Rights Monthly Assessment: March 2008
|Publisher||UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC)|
|Publication Date||13 May 2008|
|Cite as||UN Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), Human Rights Monthly Assessment: March 2008, 13 May 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4832ab282.html [accessed 30 November 2015]|
Human Rights Division / MONUC
14 may. 08 - 17.50h
The UN Human Rights Council decides not to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the DRC;
During a meeting of the Council of Ministers held in Matadi, Bas-Congo Province, the Government imposed a ban on Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK);
The UN Security Council has demanded that all the Rwandan armed groups, operating in the eastern DRC lay down their arms, and present themselves without any further delay or preconditions to Congolese authorities and MONUC for their disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration (DDRRR).
Attacks, threats and arrests of journalists and human rights defenders increased during the month in review;
In North and South Kivu, UNHRO opens investigations into allegations that between 1 and 12 March 2008, thirteen (13) civilians were allegedly arbitrarily executed by elements of the PARECO armed group;
The UNHRO has observed serious violations of fair trial standards in the Serge Maheshe appeal trial in Bukavu, South-Kivu;
Three police officers and five FARDC soldiers were sentenced to 20 and 10 and 5 years' imprisonment respectively for rape;
Law enforcement personnel and judicial officials have continued to engage in out-of-court settlement of sexual violence cases despite very clear provisions of the new laws on sexual violence;
Eighty (80) inmates escaped from the prisons and detention centres across the country in March 2008.
I- Political, Social and Security Developments
1. The period under review was marked by major political, social and security recommendations, resolutions and decisions taken by the Government of the DRC, the National Assembly and the UN Security Council. On 20 March 2008, President Kabila presided over a meeting of the Council of Ministers in Matadi, Provincial capital of Bas-Congo.
Among the several decisions taken by the Government figured that of the withdrawal of the authorization that had been granted to the politico-religious movement Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) to function as a cultural and non-profit organization. The Government used the opportunity to address pressing issues affecting the Bas-Congo Province, including lack of proper communication and transportation infrastructures, inadequate water and electricity supply and unemployment, particularly among the youth.
2. Through its Resolution 1804 on the situation in the Great Lakes region, adopted unanimously on 13 March 2008, the UN Security Council demanded that all Rwandan armed groups, including FDLR, ex-FAR/Interahamwe, operating in the eastern DRC lay down their arms, and present themselves without any further delay or preconditions to Congolese authorities and MONUC for their disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration.
It also demanded that the Rwandan arms groups stop recruiting and using children, release all children associated with them, and put an end to gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence, and stressed the need for those responsible to be brought to justice
3. In Bas-Congo, reports suggest that a large number of BDK adepts as well as some PNC elements lost their lives during PNC operations launched against the BDK on 28 February 2008. Prior to the PNC intervention, BDK members had taken control of several localities in the province and carried out several attacks against civilians, Christian church representatives and members, State representatives and symbols.
4. From 17 March to 28 March 2008, a MONUC multidisciplinary Investigation Mission conducted investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations committed by the PNC during operations against the Bundu Dia Kongo (BDK) as well as into criminal acts committed by BDK members in the Bas-Congo province. A report is being prepared.
5. On 15 March 2008, the two chambers of Parliament held official ceremonies to mark the opening of their ordinary sessions, which will last from 15 March until 15 June. During its three-month ordinary session, the Parliament is expected to examine or adopt a number of draft laws, inter alia, the draft laws on the Court of Cassation, the Constitutional Court, the amnesty law, the law to abolish the death penalty, the law on the Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature, the law on the implementation of the Rome Statute of the ICC.
II- Human Rights Developments and Concerns
The UN Human Rights Council ends the mandate of the of Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the DRC
6. On 27 March 2008, during its seventh regular session held in Geneva, the Human Rights Council decided not to renew the mandate of the Independent Expert (IE) on the situation of human rights in the DRC that was established in July 2004. On 19 March 2008, Mr. Frédéric Titinga Pacéré, the IE, presented a report on his last two working visits to the country (November 2007 and March 2008). The report indicated that the human rights situation in the DRC was cause for grave concern, characterized by repeated serious violations including arbitrary executions, rapes, torture and ill-treatment, in particular in the eastern part of the country and in the Bas-Congo Province.
The Human Rights Council also made reference to the Entité de Liaison pour les droits de l'homme, (a mechanism of cooperation that has been set up between the UNHRO and several Government Ministries and agencies to examine the human rights situation in the DRC and take measures to combat impunity), as another alternative to the mandate of the Independent Expert.
b. Implication of the FARDC in human rights violations
7. During the reporting period, UNHRO monitoring activities revealed a decrease in the proportion of human rights violations perpetrated by members of the FARDC from 45 cases in February 2008 to 28 in March 2008. These serious human rights violations included two cases of arbitrary execution, six rape cases, ten (10) cases of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, four cases of abduction and six cases of arbitrary arrests and detention
8. On 22 March 2008, in Mahagi Port, Ituri, near to the border with Uganda, a FARDC soldier shot dead a civilian who resisted his attempt to extort him at a checkpoint. The perpetrator was later stabbed to death by the victim's brother. In Beni, North Kivu, a motorcycle taxi driver was attacked and shot in the chest by a man wearing the FARDC uniform on the night of 14-15 March 2008 as he was dropping off a passenger. The assailant allegedly extorted money and his mobile phone before shooting the victim. The police have begun an investigation into the incident.
9. On the night of 19-20 March 2008, in Kahama, (26 km south of Uvira, South Kivu Province), a soldier of the FARDC 109th Brigade, allegedly broke into the home of a 70-year-old widow and raped her. The victim was taken to the local hospital for treatment. A 14-year-old girl was raped by a FARDC Lieutenant based in Gemena (420 km north-east of Mbandaka, Equateur Province). The alleged perpetrator abducted the victim on 19 March, sequestrated her in his house where he repeatedly raped her until he finally released her on 23 March 2008. The officer was subsequently arrested by the Office of the Military Prosecutor.
c. Implication of the PNC in human rights violations
10. The number of human rights violations perpetrated by the PNC continued to increase during the month in review. The elements of the PNC were implicated in 130 human rights violations during the reporting period compared to 128 cases last month. Two involved cases of violation of the right to life, eleven (11) involved cases of torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment whereas 117 involved cases of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention.
Police officers continued to arrest and detain persons for civil matters such as non-payment of debts and other financial obligations. They arrested persons in place of others and frequently violated the 48-hour constitutional limit for keeping detainees in a holding cell before releasing them or bringing them before a competent judicial authority. In addition, arrested persons are often not properly registered. These practices continue despite numerous interventions by the UNHRO during seminars and frequent visits to holding cells.
11. Furthermore, the UNHRO noted a resurgence of the use of torture by the (GMI) Groupe Mobile d'Intervention in Mbuji Mayi, Kasaï Oriental. A policeman arrested on 28 February 2008 and detained at the GMI holding cell until 13 March 2008, was subjected to torture while on detention by a GMI Lieutenant. The victim was handcuffed behind his back, beaten on the buttocks and the right shoulder with the backside of a machete and also beaten on the back with the wooden handle of a spade. He was transferred to the Mbuji Central Prison by the Military Prosecutor who has begun an investigation into the case.
In South-Kivu, on 17 March 2008, four civilians were seriously injured when the PNC intervened to restore law and order in the locality of Kalundu, Uvira. The local population was demonstrating in protest against the assassination of a chef d'avenue/chef de quartier.
d. Implication of other security services in human rights violations
12. Reports indicated that agents of the Agence Nationale de Renseignements (ANR) continued to arrest and detain persons for common law offences and civil matters that have no connection with State security issues. Arrested persons are very rarely transferred to a competent judicial authority and are generally released following the payment of exorbitant fines. Very often detainees are subjected to ill-treatment.
13. Monitoring activities indicated that elements of the Republic Guard have allegedly been responsible for a series of armed robberies and a general deterioration of the human rights/security situation in the commune of Ngaliema, Kinshasa. They were the alleged perpetrators of an armed robbery at a residence in the Jolie Parc neighbourhood on the night of 22-23 March and on the night of 24-25 March, a group of 16 men in Republican Guard uniforms reportedly attacked a man in another neighbourhood but were forced to flee the scene following a confrontation with the police.
e. Implication of armed groups in human rights abuses
14. During the reporting period, armed groups, both foreign and local, have been responsible for a significant deterioration of the security and human rights situation in the Kivus as well as in Province Orientale. Information obtained by the UNHRO indicated that armed groups were responsible for 51 cases of human rights abuses, including 18 cases of violation of the right to life.
UNHRO opened investigations into the following allegations: on 1 March 2008, six civilians were arbitrarily executed, a woman raped and a 17-year-old girl stabbed, reportedly by PARECO combatants during an attack on the locality of Luwuzi (190 km north of Bukavu, territory of Kalehe). In North-Kivu, on the night of 11-12 March 2008, seven civilians were allegedly killed and ten others injured by armed groups in the village of Kibabi (27 km west of Mushake).
15. On 27 March 2008, FDLR combatants allegedly killed three residents of Kabuga in Rutshuru territory whom they had accused of poisoning their commander and practicing witchcraft. Other reports received by the UNHRO suggest that the local population stoned the victims to death and then burned their bodies. In an another incident, on the night of 15-16 March 2008, a group of FDLR combatants arbitrarily executed three civilians in the village of Tchanishasha, Nyawaronga Groupement, South Kivu.
In North Kivu, on 13 March, a motorcycle taxi driver and a female passenger were allegedly abducted by CNDP elements near Bihambwe, Masisi territory. The woman was released on 17 March but the driver is reportedly missing. Still in North Kivu, on 20 March, a woman was reportedly abducted by CNDP elements in Rubaya. In the northern part of Province Orientale, LRA elements (Ugandan rebels) have been reportedly implicated in large scale pillaging of villages as well as abduction of children in the territory of Dungu.
f. Attacks against human rights defenders and journalists
16. The month in review was marred by the resurgence of attacks and threats against media and human rights activists. Three journalists and three human rights defenders were subjected to serious threats or detained. On the morning of 21 March 2008, a well-known Human Rights Defender was arrested and released in the evening of the same day by ANR while on official mission in Lubumbashi. ANR alleged that the Human Rights Defender was distributing illegal leaflets. His employer, the international non-governmental organization Open Society Institute for Southern Africa (OSISA), based in South Africa, confirmed that he was performing his official functions, that the leaflet was a sensitization document produced with funding from OSISA. The leaflet was anonymous.
Under Congolese law, the distribution of anonymous document is outlawed (Article 150 of the Penal Law). The victim is responsible for the DRC program at OSISA and is particularly involved with issues related to the illegal exploitation of resources and the revision of mining contracts. He previously worked for Congolese Human Rights NGOs in Katanga and he was threatened and intimidated many times in the past for his Human Rights work and was also illegally detained and mistreated by ANR.
17. In South-Kivu, a member of a local NGO allegedly received threats through an anonymous phone call on the night of 25-26 March 2008. The victim was a signatory to a press release issued on 25 March 2008, in which local NGOs together with one International NGO denounced key irregularities observed since the inception of the Serge Maheshe murder appeal trial. Reliable sources have also indicated that Bukavu military justice officials have strongly criticized the action taken by the NGOs.
In an unrelated case, on 27 March 2008, in Tshimbulu, Kasaï Occidental Province, a human rights activist was threatened by ANR agents when she went to enquire into a case of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention. The agents allegedly manhandled her and also threatened to arrest her if she ever returned to enquire into other cases.
III- Administration of justice/Fight against impunity
18. In South-Kivu, during the reporting period, the Serge Maheshe murder appeal trial continued before the Military Court in Bukavu. During the 5 March 2008 hearing, the court turned down a request for provisional release of two of the co-accused that had been filed by the Defense on 20 February 2008 arguing that the request was receivable but groundless.
The UNHRO observed that the first three hearings of the month were marred by persistent violations of the rights of the main defendants, specifically the continuous failure on the part of the court to provide them with the services of a professional interpreter, as well as the lack of equity and neutrality in the allocation of time to the parties to present their cases. It is important to point out that the UNHRO report on observation of the first degree trial was published on the MONUC website on 6 March 2008.
19. On 26 March 2008, the first part of the hearing was devoted to discussions on an alleged attempted murder/torture on one of the main accused at the Bukavu Central Prison on 23 March. In a letter addressed to the Court, the defence lawyers claimed that their client had been subjected to a severe beating by fellow inmates acting on the orders of the Capita Général (an inmate used as supervisor of the other inmates). They requested the Court to allow their client to receive the necessary medical treatment and also expressed concern for his safety.
At the request of the defense counsel, the Court temporarily suspended the hearing after requesting the PNC Medical Services to conduct a brief medical examination of the accused. The PNC doctor considered that the accused was fit to appear in Court despite the declarations of the accused that he was not feeling well and the hearing continued. The second part of the hearing dealt mainly with the retraction letter of the confessions of the two accused as well as the victim's SIM card.
20. One positive development was that the Military Court finally designated an official translator to enable the accused to understand the debates and accusations against him. However, other serious violations of international fair trial guarantees continued to be observed at this hearing, in particular, violations of the rights of the defense. During the March 26 hearing, the President of the Military Court publicly criticized the work of all trial observers present in the courtroom accusing them of being "dishonest" and "partial" and threatened to initiate prosecutions against them.
The UNHRO is extremely concerned about the climate of intimidation in which this trial is conducted, as well as the allegations of torture/attempted murder against one of the two accused who claims to have been forced to make false accusations in the first instance trial. The trial was adjourned to 2 April 2008.
21. During the month in review, the Gédéon trial also continued before the Kipushi Military Tribunal in Katanga. On 25 March 2008, the lawyers for the victims filed a motion of recusal against the Presiding judge and another of the judges on the grounds that they had been part of a panel of judges who acquitted a group of Gédéon's Mayi Mayi in 2006 charged with participating in an insurrectionary movement. The lawyers claimed that the Tribunal had so far been quite lenient towards Gédéon and would most probably acquit him.
In response, the Presiding Judge declared that he could not step down if there was not an official motion of recusal submitted against him, as required by law and then adjourned the trial to 8 April 2008.
22. On 22 March 2008, Mr. Kahwa Panga Mandro (Chef Kahwa), former Ituri warlord and chief of the PUSIC militia (Parti pour l'Unité et la Sauvegarde pour l'Intégrité du Congo), was transferred from a MONUC military facility in Bunia, Ituri, to the Kinshasa Central Prison (CPRK). The transfer was carried out at the request of the Military Prosecutor-General (Auditeur Général) and was facilitated by MONUC. Chef Kahwa was detained at the MONUC facility for security reasons since his arrest in 2005.
23. On 10 March 2008, in a press release, the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it had decided on joint files accusation concerning Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo, former FRPI (Front de Résistance Patriotique de l'Ituri) and FNI (Front des Nationalistes et Intégrationnistes) leaders respectively. They are allegedly co-authors of crimes which were committed during and after an attack by the FRPI and FNI on the village Bogoro (Ituri District) on 24 February 2003. The joint hearing has been scheduled for 21 May 2008.
On 12 March 2008, also in a press release, the ICC indicated that it had decided not to hold part of the first trial of Thomas Lubanga (former Union des Patriotes Congolais militia leader who is accused of using child soldiers) in the DRC. The ICC trial of Thomas Lubanga had been previously scheduled for March 2008, but proceedings were delayed after Lubanga's lawyers stated that prosecutors had not disclosed all the evidence as stipulated by the Court. The trial is therefore not expected to start before 23 June 2008
24. During the reporting period, several members of the FARDC/PNC who were responsible for serious human rights violations were arrested and in some cases tried and sentenced. On 17 March 2008, a policeman charged with murder was sentenced to death by the Mbuji Mayi Military Tribunal. In an unrelated case, on 20 March 2008, two FARDC soldiers charged with arbitrary arrest and extortion were sentenced to five years imprisonment each by the Bunia Military Tribunal.
In North Katanga, on 3 March 2008, a FARDC Captain, one of the persons responsible for the assassination of two civilians on the Kalemie-Bendera road in January 2008, was arrested on the orders of the Commander of the 1st Naval Region. In Opala, Province Orientale, another Mayi Mayi combatant allegedly implicated in the Opala mass rape of July 2007, was arrested. In North-Kivu, on 14 March 2008, a FARDC Captain was arrested by the Commander of the 2nd FARDC Integrated Brigade on the grounds that he was responsible for the forced disappearance of four children and implicated in looting activities in the region.
Interference in the administration of justice
25. Interference in the administration of justice by top local political and security authorities continued to occur openly and in complete impunity throughout the DRC. On 21 March 2008, in Ituri, a FARDC Colonel released one of his subordinates whom he had briefly detained for having extorted a businessman of 750,000 Ugandan Shillings ($400.00) despite a written request from the Bunia Military Prosecutor to have the soldier handed over to his office for investigation.
On 24 March, a Colonel in Aru, refused to allow the execution of an arrest warrant from the Office of the Military Prosecutor for a FARDC soldier who had been sentenced to five years' imprisonment in absentia by the Bunia Military Tribunal on 23 May 2007. The soldier, who had escaped from the PNC holding cell on the eve of the commencement of the trial, recently returned to Aru where he is reportedly employed with the FARDC Brigade.
26. In the territory of Ubundu, the police have so far refused to hand over a PNC commander accused of arbitrary arrest and detention, rape and ill treatment of a pregnant woman to military justice officials. Since his release on bail by the Office of the Military Prosecutor, the officer has categorically refused to report to that office for follow-up investigation. His superiors recently decided to redeploy him.
27. In Kasaï Oriental Province, on 19 March 2008, the police arrested a resident of Nzaba neighborhood in the commune of Bipemba over a dispute he had with his tenant. They handcuffed him and then proceeded to beat him with rope and with the butts of their rifles. They also kicked him and struck him with their fists as they took him to the police station. The man was released later that day after his wife paid a deposit of 3,000 FC on the sum of 16,000 ($29.00 US) the police demanded for his release. He succumbed to his injuries the same day on his way to the local hospital.
The perpetrators have gone into hiding but their commander was arrested by the Special Services Branch. However, his superiors have so far refused to hand him over to military justice officials.
Abuse of power by local political authorities
28. During the month in review, the UNHRO received frequent reports of acts of abuse of power by administrative and political authorities on the local residents. In Luiza, Kasaï Occidental Province, on 12 March 2008, an administrative official ordered the local police officers to publicly beat five men with truncheons. The men had been arrested the day before accused of issuing threats against the official. They were later transferred to the Luiza prison. The marks seen on their bodies were consistent with the reports. The incident occurred following protests by the local population over an attempt by the administrative official to install a new traditional leader.
Sexual Violence and fight against impunity
29. The UNHRO notes with concern that despite the passing of reinforced laws on sexual violence by the National Assembly in 2006, and the Acts of Engagement that they had signed to demonstrate their commitment to the fight against the impunity for perpetrators of sexual violence, law enforcement personnel and magistrates continue to treat rape and sexual violence in general with a marked lack of seriousness. Consequently, men accused of rape are often granted bail or given relatively light sentence and out-of-court settlements of sexual violence cases are widespread. Such actions are detrimental to the victims and constitute major setbacks in the fight against impunity.
30. In Kasongo, Maniema Province, six men who raped a woman were granted bail by a magistrate from the Office of the Public Prosecutor even before the victim arrived to give her statement. In Katanga, a policeman accused of raping a minor was released on 22 February 2008 at the request of a very senior police officer following an out-of-court settlement of the case allegedly backed by a Judicial Police Officer (OPJ). The victim was raped on 4 February 2008 in Kapolowe (90 km of Lubumbashi).
The alleged perpetrator had been arrested and transferred eight days later to the GMI holding cell in Lubumbashi. In Katanga Province, on 12 March 2008, the Lubumbashi Military Court acquitted a FARDC Lieutenant of rape for lack of evidence. In the absence of the victim, who could not travel to Lubumbsahi, the Court dismissed the rape charge. The accused had been sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment at the first degree trial by the Kalemie Military Tribunal on 6 November 2006.
31. In North-Kivu, a senior ANR agent in Eringeti, accused of raping a minor on 15 January 2008, continued to obstruct the administration of justice by persistently refusing to be arraigned before the Court. On 15 March 2008, he showed up and was not arrested. In South-Kivu, a PNC Officer suspected of raping a minor on 26 January 2008 in Masisi (222 km southwest of Uvira) was released following his arrest and transfer to Fizi (127 km south of Uvira). Local sources revealed that he was later recruited as PNC agent in Fizi.
32. Sexual violence remained widespread, principally in remote areas. During a monitoring visit to the locality of Shabunda, South-Kivu, local medical sources from the General hospital indicated that the average number of sexual violence cases registered was 50 per month, half of which were committed by members of the defense and security forces. The same sources added that 75% of the victims were minors. So far, only two alleged perpetrators have been arrested. Monitoring also revealed that in remote areas, victims are reluctant to report sexual violence cases. They reported only if medical complications occurred.
33. In the absence of law enforcement personnel and institutions, including the Tribunal de Paix, in remote areas, local population continue to resort to traditional court and traditional leaders to adjudicate cases, mostly sexual violence cases. In Bandundu Province, on 10 March 2008, a local human rights NGO indicated that the Tribunal de Paix of Bagata (135 km of Bandundu-ville, District of Kwilu) has not been operational since September 2007 due to the absence of the only judge assigned to the Tribunal.
Consequently, traditional leaders have been exercising ratione materiae competence over cases that are far beyond there jurisdiction, adjudicating sexual violence cases, collecting exorbitant fines, goats and cows from alleged perpetrators. The UNHRO observed the same practice in the territory of Katako-Kombe (700 km north of Mbuji Mayi, Kasaï Oriental).
34. Nevertheless, some positive developments were observed in the fight against impunity of sexual violence cases. In Ituri, on 20 March 2008, a FARDC soldier charged with rape was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment by the Bunia Military Tribunal. Still in Ituri, on 14 March 2008, the Bunia Military Tribunal sentenced a FARDC Lieutenant and a Sergeant to five and ten years' imprisonment respectively for rape with the use of violence and serious threats to the victim committed in Fataki and Nioka. The men were also dismissed from the army. The militiaman received two 20-year sentences, the first for rape and the second for extortion plus illegal arrest, detention and use of firearms.
35. On 22 March 2008, the Gemena Military Tribunal sentenced a FARDC Sergeant and a Lieutenant charged with the rape of two minors to only five years in prison. They were also ordered to pay $5,000 and $1,500 respectively in damages to the victims. On 17 March 2008, a policeman charged with rape was sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Beni Military Tribunal and two policemen accused of raping minors were sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Kisangani Military Tribunal.
36. On 10 March 2008, a FARDC soldier accused of raping a minor in Lemera ( 80 km northwest of Uvira, South-Kivu) in May 2007, was arrested and detained at the 12th Integrated Battalion holding cell in Baraka., South-Kivu. In another case, a FARDC soldier attached to the 12th Integrated Battalion, accused of attempted rape in March 2008 was allegedly arrested.
V- Human Rights in Prisons and Detention Centres
37. The UNHRO observed a substantial increase in the number of prison escapes throughout the country. During the period in review, at least 80 inmates, including some convicted of serious human rights violations, escaped from prisons and detention centres. In Ituri, fifty one inmates, including 41 awaiting trial, escaped from the Mahagi prison on 2 March 2008 amidst a number of grievances including corruption practices on the part of PIR officers (Police d'intervention Rapide) attached to the prison, chronic food and water shortages, very poor sanitation, continuous discontent on the part the prison guards, who have accumulated three-month salary arrears. Two inmates were later captured. The local Tribunal has opened an investigation into the incident.
In Northern Katanga, on 5 March 2008, six inmates escaped from the Kalemie central prison, reportedly in complicity with the PNC officers attached to the prison. So far, only one inmate has been captured.
38. On the night of 11 March 2008, eleven (11) FARDC detainees escaped from the holding cell of the Auditorat Militaire in Kongolo,-350 km northwest of Kalemie,-North Katanga. None of the escapees have so far been captured. On the night of 10 March, five inmates escaped from the Mbandaka Central Prison in Equateur Province, reportedly while the guards were asleep. Three of the escapees were later captured. It is important to note that at least 16 inmates have escaped from the Mbandaka Central Prison since the beginning of the year.
Still in Equateur Province, on 12 March 2008, seven inmates escaped form the Gbadolite Prison. The dilapidated state of the prison and the complicity of the guards have been cited as the main causes of these frequent escapes.
39. The UNHRO continued to receive reports of attempted mass escapes of prisoners from different areas of the DRC. An inmate of the Kikwit Central Prison in Bandundu Province was shot by a PNC guard as he attempted to escape on 23 March 2008 and was later taken to the local hospital. In reaction to the shooting, the other inmates then ransacked the Director's office and destroyed twelve files that were on his desk. Earlier that day, the inmates had staged a riot in protest against a decision made by the prison Director to give part of their food supplies to the prison guards.
40. In South-Kivu, on 12 March 2008, four inmates were seriously injured when the GMI (Groupe Mobile d' Intervention) intervened to restore order in the prison following a riot and attempted mass escape by the inmates at the Bukavu Central prison. On the night of 17-18 March 2008, seven military detainees attempted to escape from the Bunia Central Prison. The men claimed that their action was prompted by the non-payment of their salaries.
There were two other attempted escapes at the same prison on 16 and 21 March 2008. Still in Ituri, thirty two (32) inmates attempted to escape from the Aru Prison during period under review but quick reaction from the prison guards thwarted their attempt.
41. In a positive development, with the view to relieving the congestion of the Mbuji Mayi central prison plagued by malnutrition and an dysentery outbreak, on 5 March 2008, twenty 22 inmates, including 14 who had received suspended sentences, were released by the relevant judicial authorities. In South-Kivu, on 15 March 2008, thirty six inmates, who had been kept indefinitely without trial at the Bukavu and Kavumu prisons, were also released by the relevant judicial authorities. It should be noted that in the DRC, almost 80% of inmates are pre-trial detainees.
42. On 29 March 2008, the REJUSCO Project (Restauration de la Justice à l'Est de la RDC) officially handed over newly built administrative offices and cells for women and minors at the Bukavu Central Prison to the DRC Government, represented by the Vice Minister of Justice and Human Rights.
a- Capacity Building and human rights awareness
43. During the month under review, capacity building and human rights awareness activities were carried out across the country. As part of the activities to mark women's month, on 18 March 2008, the UNHRO, UNDP, UNFPA and WFP conducted a sensitization motorcade in Kinshasa on this year's theme "Investing in Women and Girls" with a special emphasis on the new laws on sexual violence. Participants included the Minister of Gender & Family, the Mayor of the commune of Nsele, Kinshasa, as well as WFP and UNDP Representatives.
The same day, in Kasaï Occidental, the UNHRO participated in an indoor sensitization program on UN Security Council Resolution 1325/2000 organized by UNPOL. The program was attended by fifty one (51) PNC officers, including fourteen one (41) females. The UNHRO made a presentation on the international and national legal framework for the protection of women, including the UNSC Res 1325.
44. As part of its capacity-building efforts, on 26 March 2008, the Training Unit made a presentation on "International Human Rights Norms", with special emphasis on Freedom of Expression and its limits, during a training seminar for fifteen (15) journalists in Kinshasa that was organized by the human rights NGO Journalistes pour les Droits Humains (JDH). The Unit also made a presentation on The National and International Mechanisms on the protection of Women's Rights (the case of widows) during a seminar organized by a local NGO for fifty (50) members of women's organizations.
45. UNHRO/Equateur, through funding obtained from MONUC Quick Impact Projects (QUIPS), organized a three-day training seminar in Gbadolite (26-28 March 2008) for thirty (30) human rights activists from the North Ubangi District. The seminar was officially opened by the Mayor of Gbadolite and presentations were made by the UNHRO, the Public Prosecutor of Gbadolite as well as prominent jurists from the area. Presentations were made on international human rights norms, the protection of human rights defenders, investigation techniques, human rights monitoring, observation of trials and the administration of justice, national mechanisms for the protection of human rights and the new laws on sexual violence
46. In Kasaï Occidental, from 10-14 March 2008, the UNHRO facilitated a four-day human rights training session for Judicial Police Officers operating in the District of Ndesha. Modules covered included "introduction to human rights, the new laws on sexual violence, criminal investigation, the penal law, the criminal procedure law as well as the protection of minors". A number of human rights instruments were distributed to the participants at the end of the session.
47. In Bandundu Province, on 13 March 2008, the UNHRO conducted a one-day human rights training seminar for the leaders of NGOs leaders based in Bandundu. Special emphasis was placed on "identifying and determining human rights violations". In Katanga Province, on 6 March 2008, during a workshop organized by UNPOL, the UNHRO made a presentation on "introduction to human rights and the new laws on sexual violence" for the benefit of fifty (50) policemen attached to the Groupe Mobile d'Intervention (GMI) in Lubumbashi.