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Democratic Republic of Congo: Human rights defender Clemence Bakatuseka assaulted on 4 October
Several international human rights organisations have come together to call on the Congolese authorities to initiate as soon as possible, a thorough, impartial investigation into the violent assault of human rights defender Ms Clemence Bakatuseka, They have also urged the authorities to make a firm commitment to end attacks against human rights defenders and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Ms. Clemence Bakatuseka, who is a human rights defender and coordinator of the NGO Human Rights Program Great Lakes (GLHRP), was assaulted on 4 October at her home, located in the town of Beni province North Kivu, DR Congo. Six armed men dressed in military uniform, stormed her house, fired two bullets at the door lock and ordered her to open it and give them money which GLHRP received from an international NGO to fund its activities. Ms Bakatuseka refused to hand over the money; at which point the armed group fired one more shot and fled the scene. Ms. Bakatuseka's children were present when the attack took place.
According to Evert Kets of Protection International, this attack confirms the worsening situation for human rights defenders in North Kivu and the ongoing risks they face. He went on to say that it is up to the Congolese State to ensure that the rights of defenders are guaranteed in order to promote a culture of respect for human rights and allow the emergence of democratic values.
According to information collected by International Protection and its local partners, the assault against Ms. Bakatuseka appears to be related to her activities as a human rights defender, in particular legal and judicial support for victims of sexual violence. Through its relief work and denunciation, her organization, the GLHRP, succeeded in securing convictions of civilians and soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) for sexual violence.
The undersigned NGOs express their deepest concern at the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in DR Congo. To date, several murders of journalists and leaders of human rights associations (including Bruno Koko Namujimbo, Maheshe Kabungulu) have gone unpunished due to the absence of due process.
The undersigned international human rights organisations call on the Congolese authorities to:
1.Carry out a full, impartial investigation in order to clarify the exact circumstances of the assault on Ms Bakatuseka, with a view to identifying and prosecuting those responsible in accordance with Congolese and international law;
2.Ensure the protection of Ms. Bakatuseka and all Congolese human rights defenders;
3.Publicly condemn the attack against Ms. Bakatuseka and commit to curbing impunity for violations against human rights defenders;
4.Ensure respect for the right to life and to physical and moral integrity, freedom of expression and information and the right to inviolability of the home as guaranteed in Articles 16, 23, 24 and 29 the Congolese constitution of February 18, 2006, and in Articles 6, 17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966 which DR Congo is a signatory, and comply with Article 9 (3) (a) and ( b) of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders concerning the right to attend hearings, proceedings and trials and offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance to defend human rights and fundamental freedoms;
5.Proceed urgently with the definition and implementation of an effective national policy for the protection of human rights and the fight against impunity for abuses against human rights defenders, in accordance with international commitments, including developing, promulgating and implementing a national law on the protection of human rights, stressing their role in building the rule of law.
According to the European Union (EU) Guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders 2004, and the local strategy for implementing these guidelines for the DR Congo, 20 March 2010 adopted by the Heads of Dipolmatic Missions in Kinshasa, the undersigned NGOs call on EU Member States to:
1.Urge the Congolese authorities to take appropriate action and investigate the attack on Ms. Clemence Bakatuseka and threats she has received, ensuring that any such investigations are conducted thoroughly and impartially;
2.Increase support to the judiciary and the police so they can adequately protect human rights defenders.
Signatories: International NGO's: Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (ACAT) – France ; Amnesty International ; Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme ; Front Line – Fondation internationale pour la protection des défenseurs des droits humains ; Fédération Internationale de l’Action des Chrétiens pour l’Abolition de la Torture (FIACAT) ; l’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits de l’Homme (un programme conjoint de la Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de l’Homme et de l’Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture) ; Protection International