2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Congo, Democratic Republic of the
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||19 June 2012|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Congo, Democratic Republic of the, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30cd537.html [accessed 28 March 2015]|
CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE (Tier 3)
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a source, destination, and possibly a transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. The majority of this trafficking is internal, and while much of it is perpetrated by armed groups and rogue elements of government forces outside government control in the country's unstable eastern provinces, incidents of trafficking occur throughout all 11 provinces. A significant number of unlicensed Congolese artisanal miners – men and boys – are reported to be exploited in situations of debt bondage by businesspeople and supply dealers from whom they acquire cash advances, tools, food, and other provisions at inflated prices and to whom they must sell the mined minerals at prices below the market value. The miners are forced to continue to work to repay constantly accumulating debts that are virtually impossible to repay. Throughout the year, in North Kivu, South Kivu, and Katanga Provinces, armed groups – such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) – and Congolese national army (FARDC) troops routinely used threats and coercion to force men and children to mine for minerals, turn over their mineral production, pay illegal "taxes," or carry looted goods from mining villages.
Some Congolese girls are forcibly prostituted in tent- or hut-based brothels or informal camps – including in markets and mining areas – by loosely organized networks, gangs, and brothel operators. Some girls in Bas-Congo province are reportedly coerced into prostitution by family members or are transported to Angola and placed into the sex trade. Congolese women and children have been exploited within the country in conditions of domestic servitude and some migrate to Angola, South Africa, Republic of the Congo, as well as East African, Middle Eastern, and European nations, where they are exploited in sex trafficking, domestic servitude, or forced labor in agriculture and diamond mines. There were reports that some Congolese youth in Bandundu and Bas-Congo provinces were lured to Angola by the promise of employment; upon arrival, however, they were subjected to forced labor in diamond mines or forced into prostitution. Children from the Republic of the Congo may transit through the DRC en route to Angola or South Africa, where they are subsequently subjected to domestic servitude. Local observers suspect that some homeless children who act as beggars and thieves – known as cheggues – on the streets of Kinshasa are controlled by a third party. In previous years, Chinese women and girls in Kinshasa were reportedly subjected to sex trafficking in Chinese-owned massage facilities. Some members of Batwa, or pygmy groups, are subjected to conditions of forced labor in agriculture, mining, mechanics, and domestic service in remote areas of the DRC. A representative from a local NGO reported that, in Equateur province, pygmies are exploited in a form of hereditary slavery through which a non-pygmy family maintains control over a pygmy family throughout generations; the victims are forced to work in timber or agriculture, or to hunt for the family for little or no compensation.
The UN reported that indigenous and foreign armed groups, notably the FDLR, Patriotes Resistants Congolais (PARECO), various local militia (Mai-Mai), the Forces republicaines federalistes (FRF), the Forces de Resistance Patriotique en Ituri (FPRI), the Front des Patriotes de la Justice au Congo (FPJC), the Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF/NALU), and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), continued to abduct and forcibly recruit Congolese men, women, and children to bolster their ranks and serve as laborers, porters, domestics, combatants, and sex slaves. Though at lower rates than in previous years, the LRA continued to abduct Congolese citizens, including children, in and near Orientale province; some of these abductees were later taken to Sudan, South Sudan or the Central African Republic. Likewise, abducted South Sudanese and Central African citizens experienced conditions of forced labor and sexual servitude at the hands of the LRA after being forcibly taken to the DRC.
Some FARDC commanders recruited, at times through force, men and children for use as combatants, escorts, and porters. During the year, the UN noted the continued presence of children in FARDC training centers; from January to June 2011, 66 such cases were documented in Orientale province alone. Former members of the militia group Congres National pour la Defense du People (CNDP) who were loosely integrated into the FARDC, particularly those commanded by Bosco Ntaganda, Colonel Innocent Zimurinda, and Colonel Baudouin Ngaruye, continued to be the worst offenders. However, the process of "regimentation" – a reorganization of the FARDC from a brigade- to a regiment-based system – undertaken by the government in 2011, as well a change in UN data collection methodology which no longer distinguished those elements that had been poorly integrated into the FARDC from the rest of the government's armed forces, made the distinction between these units less clear. An unspecified number of children recruited by the CNDP prior to its incorporation into the Congolese military remain within integrated FARDC units and have not been demobilized. The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) documented 272 cases of children who were both recruited and separated from armed groups in 2011, all of whom were identified in North and South Kivu provinces. In March 2012, the International Criminal Court, in issuing its first-ever verdict, convicted former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga for enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 during conflict in the DRC between 2002 and 2003.
FARDC elements reportedly pressed civilians – men, women, and children, including internally displaced persons and prisoners – into forced labor to carry ammunition, supplies, and looted goods, to fetch water and firewood, to serve as guides and domestic laborers, to mine for minerals, or to construct military facilities and temporary huts. There were unconfirmed reports that policemen and members of other security forces in eastern DRC arrested people arbitrarily in order to extort money from them; those who could not pay were forced to work until they had "earned" their freedom.
The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. It did not sign a UN-sponsored action plan to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers within its armed forces, though it formed a ministerial committee for this purpose. The government did not apply legal sanctions against those who recruit and use child soldiers. Also, a number of FARDC commanders accused of using child soldiers and committing forced labor abuses in previous reporting periods remained in leadership positions within the army and were not investigated, disciplined in any way, or brought to trial.
During the reporting period, the government made no discernible law enforcement efforts to combat any form of human trafficking. It continued to cooperate with international organizations in the demobilization of children from armed forces; however, despite evidence of a multifaceted human trafficking problem throughout the country's 11 provinces, the government did not identify victims of other forms of trafficking, and it did not provide protective services or referrals to NGO-operated facilities to victims of other forms of forced labor or sex trafficking.
Recommendations for the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Investigate and prosecute military and other law enforcement personnel – to the extent possible using existing legislation and irrespective of their rank – accused of unlawfully conscripting child soldiers or using local populations to perform forced labor, including in the mining of minerals, and punish convicted offenders; increase efforts to prosecute and punish non-military trafficking offenders who utilize forced labor or control women and children in prostitution; cease the FARDC's use of child soldiers, including those forcibly recruited, and demobilize all children from its ranks; adopt the implementing regulations to effectively apply the previously passed Child Protection Code; continue to ensure that any armed groups integrated into the FARDC are vetted for the presence of child soldiers and all associated children are removed and demobilized; adopt a UN-sponsored action plan to end the recruitment and use of children by the FARDC and begin to implement this plan; develop a legislative proposal to comprehensively address all forms of human trafficking, including labor trafficking; in partnership with NGOs or other civil society institutions, ensure the provision of short-term protective services to victims of forced labor and sex trafficking; and take steps to raise awareness about all forms of human trafficking among the general population.
The government made no discernible progress in law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking during the reporting period. The government's ability to enforce its laws does not extend to many areas of the country in which human trafficking occurs. The Ministry of Justice was allocated a budget of slightly less than 1 percent of the national budget and, at the close of the reporting period, the government was operating without an approved budget for the current year. Existing laws do not prohibit all forms of labor trafficking. The July 2006 sexual violence statute, Law 6/018, specifically prohibits sexual slavery, sex trafficking, child and forced prostitution, and pimping, prescribing penalties for these offenses ranging from three months' to 20 years' imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The government has not reported applying this law to suspected trafficking cases. The Child Protection Code (Law 09/001) also prohibits and prescribes penalties of 10 to 20 years' imprisonment for sexual slavery, child trafficking, child commercial sexual exploitation, and the enlistment of children into the armed forces; it cannot be fully implemented, however, reportedly because necessary decrees from several ministries are lacking as is a funding allotment from the Ministry of Finance.
Unlike the previous year, the government did not report investigating or prosecuting any trafficking cases during the year, or convicting any offenders of trafficking on related crimes. Bedi Mubuli Engangela (a.k.a. Colonel 106), a former Mai-Mai commander suspected of insurrection and war crimes, including the conscription of children, remained in detention at Malaka Prison in Kinshasa for a fourth year; a trial date was not set before the close of the reporting period.
Impunity for the commission of trafficking crimes by the security forces remained acute; the government did not report making efforts to hold suspected trafficking offenders within its security forces accountable for the use of civilians for forced labor or the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers. There was no evidence of disciplinary, investigative, or legal action taken by authorities, either during the reporting period or in recent years, following the commission of such abuses. Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Pierre Biyoyo, formerly of the Mudundu-40 armed group and the first person convicted by Congolese courts of conscripting children, escaped from prison in 2006 and was not re-incarcerated by the close of the reporting period. "Captain Gaston," an armed group commander allegedly responsible for the mid-2006 murder of an NGO child protection advocate attempting to identify and remove child soldiers, remained at large in Kitchanga, North Kivu during the reporting period; his January 2007 arrest warrant has not been executed and, after being promoted by the FARDC to the rank of major, he is leading a FARDC battalion between Ngungu and Karuba.
Elements of the governmental security forces continued to victimize, rather than protect, local populations during the reporting period. Although the government assisted in the identification and demobilization of child soldiers, it did not offer specific protections to other types of trafficking victims; beyond child soldiers, it did not report identifying any victims of forced labor or sex trafficking during the year. NGOs provided the vast majority of the limited shelter, legal, medical, and psychological services available to trafficking victims. The government lacked procedures for proactively identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups or referring victims to protective services; there were reports that victims were sometimes detained for traveling within the country without proper documentation. An NGO reported that security forces regularly performed sweeps to round up cheggues in Kinshasa, at times at gunpoint, and expel them outside the city center. The government did not show evidence of encouraging victims to assist in investigations against their traffickers. While trafficking victims could file cases against their traffickers in civil courts, there is no evidence that any have ever done so; the public widely viewed civil courts as corrupt and believed outcomes were determined based on the relative financial means of the parties to the lawsuit. The government offered no legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution; there were, however, few foreign trafficking victims identified within the DRC in 2011 and the government has consistently allowed for the safe repatriation of foreign child soldiers in cooperation with MONUSCO.
Under the National Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration Plan, all ex-combatants, including child soldiers, pass through a common process during which they disarm and receive information about military and civilian reintegration options. During this process, the National Demobilization Agency (UEPN-DDR), in cooperation with MONUSCO and UNICEF, continued to separate and transport any identified children to NGO-run centers for temporary housing and vocational training. According to MONUSCO, 1,244 child soldiers separated from armed groups were identified in 2011; 256 of these children were from the FARDC, including in elements which have been poorly integrated into the government's armed forces; approximately two-thirds of these children escaped from armed groups and the remainder, including 12 children under the age of 10 years old, were identified by UN child protection officers. An additional 302 children released from armed groups in previous years were identified and provided services this year. Reintegrated child soldiers remain vulnerable to re-recruitment as adequate rehabilitation services do not exist for children suffering the most severe psychological trauma. During the year, the government, with support from a foreign donor, screened and provided biometric identification cards to 103,217 members of the FARDC; as a result of these efforts, an unknown number of children were identified, removed from the armed forces, and referred to NGOs to receive rehabilitative services. As a result of MONUSCO's government-requested assistance in demobilizing children associated with the FRF prior to the group's integration into the FARDC, 52 children were identified and removed during the year, though it was estimated that this group contained greater numbers of children than were identified.
While the FARDC high command remained supportive of MONUSCO's efforts to remove children from its forces during the reporting period, it lacked sufficient command and control to compel many FARDC commanders to comply with standing orders to release their child soldiers, or to prevent ground troops from recruiting additional children or subjecting local populations to forced labor. There were fewer reports during the year that FARDC commanders actively blocked efforts by MONUSCO to separate children from their ranks; however, it is suspected that some factions hid children from UN representatives, and some FARDC elements continued to harass, arrest, and physically mistreat children formerly associated with armed groups.
The government made no significant efforts to prevent human trafficking during the reporting period. While the country has inter-ministerial bodies focused on human rights and child protection, no similar coordinating mechanism existed to address human trafficking at the national level. Although the National Ministry of Labor remained responsible for inspecting worksites for child labor, the ministry neither conducted any forced child labor investigations nor identified any cases of forced child labor in 2011 and had no system to track child labor complaints; inspectors often lacked means of transportation or resources to carry out their work. The government took some steps to establish the identity of adult populations by issuing voter registration cards to several million citizens between April 2011 and July 2011 through the country's voter registration process. In December 2011, the government adopted a national action plan to combat the worst forms of child labor, which includes some forms of child trafficking including child soldiering, but it did not allocate funds to implement the plan. The Katanga Provincial Committee to Combat the Worst Forms of Child Labor reported holding a public awareness event, reportedly focused on the use of children in artisanal mining, to correspond with the International Day to Combat Child Labor in June 2011; no other actions were reported by the three provincial committees established during the previous year to combat child labor. The government did not take any known measures during the reporting period to reduce the demand for forced labor or commercial sex acts.
In March 2012, senior FARDC officers, including commanders, from all regions of the DRC organized and participated in a seminar on security sector reform, including the government's "zero tolerance" policy regarding the recruitment and use of children in its armed forces. During the year, the Ministry of Defense publicly maintained its adherence to this policy and did not publicly engage in a discussion regarding children used by government forces, claiming that rebel groups were the sole perpetrators of these crimes. However, in September 2011, the government formed a committee comprised of members of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, to serve as the government's focal point for discussions with the UN regarding a joint action plan on ending the recruitment and use of child soldiers in the FARDC. In September, this committee met with UN representatives to discuss the steps toward signing an action plan; however, by the close of the reporting period, the government had not formally committed to signing such an action plan and negotiations between the UN and the government had not yet begun.