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UN human rights chief continues mission in Africa

UN human rights chief continues mission in Africa

Sergio Vieira de Mello
The United Nations top human rights official today travelled to Angola, the last stop on his weeklong mission to assess the humanitarian, human rights and political situation in Africa.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello is scheduled to meet with President José Eduardo dos Santos and other senior officials in Angola on a three-day visit highlighted by discussions on the current peace process. Mr. Vieira de Mello will also draw attention to the importance of human rights in achieving national reconciliation.

Earlier this week, Mr. Vieira de Mello was in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he met yesterday with President Joseph Kabila and expressed his concern about the fate of 30 people recently sentenced to death by a military court on charges that they were involved in the assassination of the previous President, Laurent-Desiré Kabila.

The High Commissioner's concerns were echoed yesterday by two experts from the Commission on Human Rights. In a joint statement, UN Special Rapporteurs Asma Jahangir, who deals with summary or arbitrary execution, and Iulia Antoanella Motoc, who deals with the DRC, expressed their "serious concern" that the trials conducted by the military tribunal that handed down the sentences were "seriously flawed and unfair." They were also concerned by reports that 15 people had been executed recently following a military tribunal judgment.

Both Rapporteurs said they have received information that the judges on the tribunals had little training in international human rights law. There were also reports that the defendants did not have sufficient time to prepare their trials and had been denied appeals.

The experts urged the Government of the DRC, and in particular President Kabila, to make certain international safeguards and restrictions on capitol punishment are in place, and to reinstate the country's moratorium on executions, which was lifted on 23 September 2002.