On 10 February 2016, the Governor of the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo promulgated an edit on the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in the province of South Kivu.
The vote and adoption of the edit by the South Kivu provincial assembly, as well as its promulgation by the Governor of South Kivu, is an important step forward in the establishment of mechanisms for the protection of human rights defenders, Protection International said today.
Protection International commends the efforts of the provincial authorities, in particular the provincial deputies and the provincial Governor of South Kivu, for their unwavering commitment to the process. This initiative by the provincial authorities sends a strong message at a time when human rights defenders and journalists are facing threats, violence and arbitrary arrests, and when the space to carry out their work is tending to become increasingly restricted.
One of the intentions of the legislation is to establish “…a legal framework for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in order to create a safe climate that allows them to operate unhindered and in complete safety”. Protection International urges all state actors in South Kivu, including the security services, to respect their obligations and contribute to the implementation of this edict.
The new text also recalls the precarious context in which human rights defenders operate: “…journalists and human rights defenders are often the target of numerous violations and restrictions to their rights in the exercise of their activities: arbitrary arrests and detention, abductions or disappearances, surveillance, torture or physical attacks, judicial harassment, death threats, killings, intimidation, illegal bans, forced exile and other forms of hindrance and frustration. Others have been murdered in circumstances that remain unclear. The text also highlights the role of human rights defenders and journalists, and their right to freedom of assembly and expression, which includes the right to organise and hold meetings, to freely communicate information on human rights, and to denounce the policies and actions of the state when it commits human rights violations. The text also stipulates that a defender may bring a case before the competent judicial authorities in the event of a violation of his or her rights.
Civil society organisations in South Kivu, Protection International and the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office describe the promulgation of the edict as a victory achieved through joint efforts, following long and difficult work over eight years.
Protection International calls on all actors in the field of the protection of human rights defenders to push at the national level for the adoption of a bill on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders. Protection International also urges the authorities to publish this edict in the official gazette as soon as possible.