Statement by the United States of America
– As prepared for delivery –
37th Session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, March 20, 2018
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States thanks the experts for their work to investigate human rights violations and abuses in the DRC, which is critical to ending cycles of violence, establishing justice for victims, and holding those responsible accountable for such heinous acts.
The Government of the DRC has the primary responsibility to protect those within its territory, to respect and ensure the human rights of all persons in its territory, and ensure that those responsible for abuses and violations of human rights are held accountable. Many of the violent acts that the experts are investigating are attributable to DRC government forces, and continued electoral delays have contributed directly to ongoing violence. Holding genuinely free and fair elections in December 2018 is a necessary step for addressing increased unrest, violence, and violations and abuses of human rights and assuring a more peaceful, prosperous, and stable future for the Congolese people.
We once again urge the DRC government to uphold its commitment to release jailed opposition and civil society activists in accordance with the December 2016 Agreement, and to respect the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
We remain concerned by the use of lethal force against unarmed and peaceful protesters during demonstrations in December, January, and February and recognize efforts by the DRC Ministry of Human Rights to investigate, in conjunction with Congolese human rights organizations, security force members responsible for perpetrating this violence. We recognize the efforts of the DRC police to publicly urge their officers to exercise restraint during protests on February 25 and to take steps to hold accountable police officers who acted inconsistently with this directive; we urge the DRC to continue credible investigations and seek justice for victims of abuses.
The United States remains disappointed in the lack of progress by the DRC government in identifying, investigating, and holding accountable those persons responsible for the murders of the two UN experts. Like so many Congolese people, the family members and colleagues of Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan continue to be denied the justice they deserve.
The United States regrets the DRC’s membership on the Human Rights Council, despite its continued poor human rights record. We are deeply concerned that, despite repeated condemnation from this Council and the Security Council, the DRC government continues to violate the fundamental freedoms this Council seeks to promote and protect. This downward spiral must end.
Panel members, we welcome your honest assessment regarding the extent to which the government has upheld its commitment to cooperate with the team of experts and what the Council can do to guarantee the integrity of the team’s mandate.