Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized constitutional republic. Voters popularly elect the president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly). Under the constitution the president’s second and final term in office expired in December 2016. The government, however, failed to organize elections in 2016 in accordance with constitutional deadlines and the president remained in office. In December 2016 the government and opposition parties agreed to a power-sharing arrangement that paved the way for elections in 2017, the release of political prisoners, and an end to politically motivated prosecutions. The government failed to implement the agreement as written, however, and elections had not occurred by year’s end. On November 5, the national electoral commission announced that elections would be held in December 2018. The country’s most recent presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed, were held in 2011. All national-level democratically elected officials, including the president and both houses of parliament, have overstayed their elected mandates.
Civilian authorities did not always maintain control over the security forces.
Armed conflict in the east and Kasai regions exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation.
The most significant human rights issues included: unlawful killings; disappearances and abductions; torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and punishment, including sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and rape; life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention facilities; arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention; denial of fair public trial; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech and the press, assembly, and association; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs); inability of citizens to change their government through democratic means; harassment of civil society, opposition, and religious leaders; corruption and a lack of transparency at all levels of government; violence and stigmatization against women, children, persons with disabilities, ethnic minorities, indigenous persons, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons, and persons with albinism, with little government action to investigate, prosecute, or hold perpetrators accountable; trafficking in persons, including forced labor, including by children; and violations of worker rights.
Authorities often took no steps to investigate, prosecute, or punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity for human rights abuses was a problem.
Government security forces, as well as rebel and militia groups (RMGs) continued to commit abuses, primarily in the east and the central Kasai region. These abuses included unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, destruction of government and private property, and SGBV. RMGs also recruited, abducted, and retained child soldiers and compelled forced labor. The government took military action against some RMGs but had limited ability to investigate abuses and bring the accused to trial (see section 1.g.).