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UN rights official urges DR Congo to prosecute persons harming aid workers

[JURIST] A UN human rights expert on Wednesday called on [press release] the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [JURIST news archive] to do more to protect human rights workers in the country, and to prosecute those who harm them. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya [official profile] issued a list of suggested improvements for the DRC government and the UN Organization Mission in DR Congo (MONUC) [official website], including taking concrete steps to legitimize the work of human rights defenders, translating the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders [text, PDF] into local languages, and fully investigating and prosecuting offenses against human rights workers. Sekaggya said that:

Human rights defenders ... face illegitimate restrictions of their right to core freedoms, i.e. freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association. Defenders, in particular journalists, who report on human rights abuses committed by State and non-State actors are killed, threatened, tortured or arbitrarily arrested and their offices are raided. The media are sometimes suspended, and journalists often censor themselves in fear of reprisals.

Sekaggya also urged the Congolese National Assembly to pass a draft law establishing a human rights commission, which was has already been approved by the Senate.

In January, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] also urged participants in the DRC conflict, including Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], to respect human rights and international law [UN News Centre report]. ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced last May the launch of a new investigation [JURIST report] against LRA leaders, including Joseph Kony [BBC profile]. Moreno-Ocampo maintained that arrest warrants issued by the ICC for LRA leaders remain in effect [JURIST report], despite requests from Uganda that they be withdrawn. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution [text, DOC; JURIST report] in December condemning human rights violations in the DRC.

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