The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said today that he “regrets and condemns” the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to order his top official in the country to leave within 48 hours, and the serious intimidation aimed at other human rights staff in there.
“Not only has my highly experienced and respected representative in DRC, Scott Campbell, been told to leave, but two other staff working in his team have been seriously threatened in recent days. This is unacceptable,” decalred Mr. Zeid in a press release.
The decision to declare Scott Campbell, the director of the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), persona non grata, or “unwelcome person”, was initially made public by the Ministry of the Interior on Thursday, a day after the release of a UN report detailing serious human rights violations by Congolese security forces, for which the Ministry is responsible.
The decision was officially confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday, despite a concerted effort by Martin Kobler, the Head of the UN mission in DRC (MONUSCO), which compiled the report jointly with the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), to persuade the Government to reconsider its decision.
"With these acts of intimidation and reprisal, the Congolese authorities risk setting back years of strenuous efforts by UN human rights staff and some sectors of the Congolese authorities to assist victims of human rights violations and strengthen the rule of law," Mr. Zeid said.
Yesterday, in a statement, Mr. Kobler, “deeply disturbed” by the Congolese Government's decsion, expressed his full confidence and trust in Mr. Campbell and the work undertaken by his whole team.
The Lokofi report, said Mr. Kobler, referring to the survey's informal title, derived from Operation “Likofi", carried out by Congolese police in the capital, Kinshasa, between 15 November 2013 and 15 February 2014, was prepared in accordance with the UN Security Council mandate for MONUSCO and followed the methodology used by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report, based on investigations conducted by the six-year-old UNJHRO, documents the killing of at least nine civilians and the enforced disappearance of at least 32 others by Congolese National Police agents. It was shared with the Ministers of Interior and of Justice and Human Rights on 18 August, and the responses of the Minister of Interior were annexed to the published version of the report.
“The report was published jointly by MONUSCO and my Office,” Mr. Zeid said today, joining “wholeheartedly” with Mr. Kobler in supporting its conclusions and recommendations.
“It describes a range of very serious violations, including summary and extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances, committed against civilians by Congolese security forces, he said, adding: “The Government of the DRC should be investigating its deeply disturbing findings and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice rather than seeking to punish the leader of the team that researched and produced the report.”
He said that over the past few years, under the guidance of Mr. Campbell, the UN Joint Office for Human Rights in the DRC has been at the forefront of the fight to promote and protect human rights and combat impunity.
“The fact that their work, mandated by the Security Council, has led to these acts of reprisal is a very disturbing development indeed,” added the High Commissioner.
He went on to urged the Government of DRC to reconsider its decision against Mr. Campbell, investigate continuing intimidation and threats against other UN human rights staff, and hold those responsible accountable.
According to the UN rights office, Mr. Campbell left the DRC on Friday for long planned holidays.