The United Nations human rights office today raised serious due process concerns over the detention of at least 300 people – some for as long as three weeks and with no access to a lawyer – following recent demonstrations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The mass arrests occurred when protests broke out in the capital, Kinshasa, and Lubumbashi, the second largest city in the DRC, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told journalists in Geneva.
Of those currently being held, at least 11 are believed to be in ‘incommunicado’ detention, including prominent civil society representative Christopher Ngoyi Mutamba. His family members and defence lawyers have had no news of him for more than two weeks, said spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.
“The UN joint human rights office in the DRC has been working with the authorities to secure the release of all those who have been illegally detained, as they enter their third week of detention without access to lawyers,” she added.
OHCHR reiterates its call to the authorities to release all those imprisoned for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, for expression of their views, for their affiliation with the opposition or for disagreeing with the amendments to the electoral bill.
Internet and mobile text messaging services have also been restricted for more than two weeks now, causing great disruption, particularly to vulnerable communities.
“We urge the Government to promptly re-establish these services and to create a space for civil society discussion, to avoid entrenching the divisions in the country ahead of the upcoming elections,” Ms. Shamdasani stressed.