The Democratic Republic of the Congo: UPR mid-term report
28 november 2022

The Democratic Republic of the Congo: UPR mid-term report

Democratic Republic of Congo

In preparation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2024, Lawyers for Lawyers has written a mid-term report. In this report, we set out to what extent the DRC has implemented the recommendations it accepted during the 2019 UPR process in relation to the role of lawyers.

During the 2019 UPR, the DRC received and accepted eight recommendations pertaining to the effective protection of human rights defenders, including lawyers, against harassment, to access to justice and to the right to freedom of expression of lawyers. Our report concludes that the DRC has not adequately implemented the recommendations. The DRC has failed to respect the rights of lawyers by not adequately enabling them to perform their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference. Furthermore, the DRC has failed to take substantive steps to uphold the right to a fair trial and to guarantee the equal right of everyone to effective access to justice and legal assistance of their choice.

Lawyers in the DRC face unlawful detention, criminal investigations and prosecutions. Especially lawyers working on politically sensitive cases endure difficulties in carrying out their professional activities without undue intervention. These threats and intimidations are also sometimes aimed at the lawyers’ families.

For example, lawyers in the DRC are increasingly facing judicial harassment. There have been several accounts of lawyers in the DRC who have been arrested and detained by the Agence Nationale de Renseignement (ANR), the state intelligence service, on improper grounds such as posing a threat to state security. As a result, lawyers in the DRC often feel compelled to censure their own arguments in courtrooms because they fear for their own safety. This threatens the proper functioning of the rule of law and the independence of the legal profession in the DRC.

Moreover, lawyers in the DRC may face administrative sanctions on the grounds of ‘discourteousness’ (disrespect) which is neither written nor specified in the DRC’s 1979 law on the organization of the bar, the body of legal defenders and the body of state agents. This may lead to the arbitrary disbarment of lawyers.

During the UPR of the DRC in 2018, L4L reported that Congolese bar associations throughout the country were not always in a position to provide adequate protection to their members. According to our information, the situation remains unchanged.

We therefore urge the governement of the DRC to:

a. Respect the rights of lawyers by guaranteeing that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference, and ensuring that lawyers are not being subjected to arbitrary detention, improper criminal charges, disbarment or other disciplinary measures on improper grounds;

b. Uphold the right to a fair trial, and guarantee everyone’s right to effective access to justice and legal assistance of their choice;

c. Guarantee that lawyers may exercise their right to freedom of expression, belief, association and peaceful assembly.

 

Meer nieuws uit Democratic Republic of Congo