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Kabila pledged rights reforms, but abuses persist - HRW

In its 2001 report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that President Joseph Kabila promised human rights reforms, but delivered "relatively little".

Positive moves included the moratorium imposed on the execution of death sentences in March 2001, and the demobilisation of child soldiers from the DRC army that began in May, HRW noted. In May, the Kinshasa office of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights, which had been closed in May 1998, was reopened. A Congolese Charter of Human Rights and a National Plan of Action on human rights were also introduced in June 2001.

"But the security agencies continued the numerous abuses for which they were notorious in the past," HRW says.

Government agents were allegedly responsible for the summary execution of 11 Lebanese just after the assassination of late President Laurent-Desire Kabila in mid-January 2001, HRW reports. A commission set up in February 2001, which included agents of the National Security Agency and members of the Military Detection of Antipatriotic Activities, to investigate the murder "exercised unlimited power" to interrogate and arrest suspects and afforded them no due process guarantees.

"Many detained by the commission were reportedly tortured and some were 'disappeared'." The worst abuses occurred in unofficial detention places run by the security agencies, including the death of one detainee from torture in mid-April, HRW said.

Human rights activists Golden Misabiko and N'sii Luanda were detained for months without charges in connection with the Kabila assassination, and released in September 2001. Misabiko said he and other prisoners had been tortured and inhumanely treated, and some had "disappeared", the report said.

The advocacy organisation went on to say that Kabila's promises to limit the powers of the "abusive" Court of Military Order had brought no reform by late October. In September 2001, in Katanga Province, the court sentenced eight people to death and 18 others to between five and 20 years in prison on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. "All were said to have been tortured and to have had no legal counsel before the trial."

To access the full report, go to http://www.hrw.org/wr2k2/africa

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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