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Fate of disappeared still an issue in Republic of the Congo - UN

Publisher UN News Service
Publication Date 3 October 2011
Cite as UN News Service, Fate of disappeared still an issue in Republic of the Congo - UN, 3 October 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e8ae2e82.html [accessed 23 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
The legacy of internal fighting in the Republic of the Congo over a decade ago still lingers on, with the fate of those who disappeared remaining a mystery, a United Nations human rights panel said today.

"The harm caused to civilians by the conflict that affected the country during the 1990s is far from being healed," the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, reported in a news release at the end of nine-day visit by two of its experts, Olivier de Frouville and Osman El-Hajjé, to the former French colony, which lies across the Congo River from its much larger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC),

"In particular, families still want to know the truth about what happened to their relatives, victims of enforced disappearances. The right to know the truth about the fate of a victim of enforced disappearance is an absolute right," said the experts, whose mission was to learn how the country is addressing cases of enforced disappearances.

Thousands of Congolese civilians fled during the 1990s, seeking safety and peace within the country or beyond its borders of their State, and in 1999 enforced disappearances were reportedly perpetrated against refugees returning home.

One episode cited, known as ‘the disappeared of the Beach,' occurred at the river port of Brazzaville, the capital, and was the object in 2005 of a trial after which the defendants, senior officials with various State security services, were acquitted.

"We regret that the judicial process could not lead to the identification and punishment of those responsible for enforced disappearances," the experts said.

But the State, recognizing it was responsible for not ensuring the safety of its citizens, awarded the families of the disappeared compensation in the trial.

"This compensation should be supplemented by other forms of reparation, including psychological and social assistance to families often plunged into serious difficulties due to the disappearance of their relatives," the experts said.

During the visit the Working Group visited Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, a major port and commercial centre, and met with several authorities, civil society organizations, relatives of disappeared persons, and representatives of UN agencies and other international organizations. It will present a detailed report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council next year.

The Group, set up by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1980 to assist families in determining the fate and whereabouts of disappeared relatives, endeavours to establish communications between families and the governments concerned to ensure that individual cases are investigated and continues to address cases of disappearances until they are resolved.

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