Technical assistance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo concerning the events in Kasai (A/HRC/35/L.36)
General Statement by the United States of America,
as delivered by Jason Mack
UN Human Rights Council – 35th Session
Geneva, June 23, 2017
Thank you, Mr. President.
As we have previously stated, the United States is deeply concerned by the violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) Kasai Provinces as well as by the political uncertainty in the country, resulting from the DRC government’s failure to hold elections in accordance with the DRC Constitution. Uncertainty over elections and over the DRC government’s commitment to abide by the terms of the December 31 agreement is fueling violence and instability across the country and in the Kasai. We remain concerned that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo lacks the will and capacity to complete a transparent and credible investigation.
In recognition of the concerning deterioration of the human rights situation in the DRC, the United States hoped that today’s resolution would be even stronger, stating clearly the need for accountability for all parties. Still, we are pleased that all Council members have been able to reach a consensus on the resolution at hand, and the United States joins that consensus. We recognize the European Union and the African Group sponsors for their efforts in this regard. We also thank the High Commissioner and his office for their efforts to encourage this Council to take action.
The United States strongly supports the resolution’s establishment of an independent team of international experts to investigate human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in the Kasai region. We understand the mandate established by this resolution to include investigating and reporting on the alleged targeting of civilians, including women and children, by both the Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) and militia groups, extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual and gender based violence by the FARDC, the alleged recruitment of child soldiers by militia groups, and the credible reports of as many as 42 mass graves in the Kasais.
We expect the DRC Government to cooperate fully with this team, provide it unhindered access to all areas of the country, and, as the tragic murders of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan remind us, it is also of paramount importance that the UN and the government ensure the security of the international experts. We look forward to this Council receiving the results of the investigation. The team should report on its progress and recommendations for future accountability efforts to the Human Rights Council. It is critical that the team be able to develop unbiased conclusions free of any pressure from the government.
As stated in operative paragraph 10 of the resolution, the government must ensure the protection of all persons who cooperate with this investigation. We expect that the team will take all appropriate precautions to protect the identities and personal information of witnesses and victims with whom they interact in the course of their work.
We close by reiterating our call to end the violations and abuses of human rights in the DRC, including arbitrary and unlawful killings, torture, and sexual and gender-based violence. We urge the DRC Government to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the establishment of this international team of experts and the technical assistance they will provide to increase its own efforts to end impunity and ensure accountability for all those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, regardless of their political affiliation, and including State officials and members of the security forces.