A group of United Nations human rights experts has called on authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to lift an “unjustified” ban on protests in the capital, Kinshasa.
The ban was imposed on September after a series of large demonstrations that were brutally suppressed by security forces leaving dozens of people dead and injured.
According to the experts, the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and of association are fundamental rights guaranteed by international law.
It is clear that the current situation in the DRC does not justify a general ban on demonstrations in several cities.
“It is clear that the current situation in the DRC does not justify a general ban on demonstrations in several cities,” they noted. “In fact, given that the country is in a hotly disputed election period, people should be given more space, not less, to express their democratic freedoms.”
Since the ban on protests in Kinshasa took effect on September 22, at least four demonstrations have been cancelled.
The UN experts have also raised fears over the National Dialogue agreement which took effect in October, postponing presidential elections beyond the constitutional deadline.
The experts warned that the agreement could be used to justify unacceptable new restrictions on the legitimate activities of civil-society organizations, violating their right to freedom of association.
“The protest ban and the restrictive tone of the National Dialogue agreement are both disturbing signs that democratic space is rapidly dissipating in the DRC, with human rights organizations and opposition parties bearing the brunt of the repression,” the independent experts said.
The ban is the fourth of its kind in the DRC since 2015. Two of the bans remain in force, affecting Kalemie in Tanganyika province and Lubumbashi in Haut Katang region of the country.