U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Democratic Republic of the Congo
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Democratic Republic of the Congo, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa570.html [accessed 18 December 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGOPresident Laurent Desire Kabila seized control of the government of the former Zaire on May 17 following a 7-month military campaign. Prior to Kabila's takeover, the late former president Mobutu Sese Seko had headed an authoritarian regime for 32 years. President Kabila's Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (ADFL) then established the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A sovereign national conference in 1992 had formulated a new constitution and enacted legislation establishing a transitional government in the years prior to the ADFL takeover; however, there was no progress in the transition to democratic government. On May 29, Kabila announced a schedule for democratization, with elections scheduled for May 1999. Kabila rules by decree. Decree Law No. 3, promulgated on May 27, established a structure consisting of a president, a government, and the courts and tribunals. Prior constitutional provisions, laws and regulations, and the Transitional Act remain in effect unless contrary to Decree Law No. 3, or repealed. The judiciary continues to be subject to executive influence and corruption. The security forces consist of a new national police force under the Ministry of Interior, a National Security Council, and the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC). The reorganized police force, in place in all regions by year's end, handles basic criminal cases. The National Security Council is responsible for internal and external security, including border security matters. The FAC retains some residual police functions. Military police have jurisdiction over armed forces personnel. The security forces under both the Mobutu and Kabila regimes committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. Most sectors of the economy have been contracting since the late 1970's; in the 1990's, the decline accelerated. Production and incomes have fallen steadily, as the modern sector has virtually disappeared. Physical infrastructure has suffered serious damage, financial institutions have collapsed, and human capital has significantly eroded. Annual per capita national income is estimated at $115. Subsistence activities, a large informal sector, and widespread barter characterize much of the economy. The insolvent public sector cannot provide even basic public services, and foreign economic assistance was limited. The Kabila Government's human rights record was mixed and serious problems remain in many areas. Until its overthrow, the Mobutu regime tolerated and committed numerous, serious human rights abuses. Security forces of both governments were responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, rape, and other abuses; security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens. In general the authorities did not punish the perpetrators, although the Kabila Government is attempting to establish controls over security forces; few allegations of abuses were made against the new police force. The judiciary is subject to executive influence, and the judicial system remains plagued by lack of resources, inefficiency, and corruption. It remains largely ineffective as a deterrent to human rights abuses or as a corrective force. Security forces violated citizens' rights to privacy. The Kabila Government suspended political party activities, and arbitrary arrest and detention were increasingly evident by year's end. Citizens were not able to vote to change their government in multiparty elections. Prolonged pretrial and extrajudicial detention is a problem. Although a large number of independent newspapers publish freely, the governments sought to limit freedom of speech and the press by harassing and arresting newspaper editors and journalists. The Government restricted freedom of assembly and association. It suspended political party activity and used security services to stop political demonstrations, sometimes resulting in deaths and arrests. Freedom of religion is recognized. Although a law restricts the process for official recognition of religious groups. The Mobutu government had limited freedom of movement. The Government resisted efforts by the United Nations to investigate reports of massacres. Discrimination against women, ethnic minorities, and pygmies is a problem. Violence against women is a problem and is seldom punished. Female genital mutilation persists among isolated populations in the north. Child labor is a common problem in the informal sector.