Democratic Republic of Congo | Draft law on Human Rights Defenders harmful, says UN Human Rights Committee


Lire cet article en français ici

The UN Human Rights Committee has raised serious concerns about the draft law on human rights defenders (HRDs) under consideration in the Democratic Republic of Congo. If adopted as it currently stands, the law would significantly curtail the activities of HRDs, said the expert Committee during its review of the DRC in Geneva. 

Speaking during the review of the DRC’s fourth periodic report on national implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in October, UN Human Rights Committee expert Santos Pais, drew attention to the proposed bill for the protection of human rights defenders. “According to information that we have received, the bill in the form that it was discussed in the National Assembly is rather harmful for the protection of human rights defenders.” Santos Pais noted. In their recommendations, the UN experts request that DRC should investigate, prosecute and sentence individuals responsible for harassment, threats and intimidations towards human rights defenders.

Clément Voule, Africa Advocacy Director at ISH,R welcomes the comments from the Human Rights Committee and the related recommendation to DRC. “It is important that any national law for the protection of human rights defenders is in line with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and allows the creation of a legal environment which is supportive to the work of human rights defenders, not restrictive”, says Voulé.

As highlighted in a recent ISHR public statement, the draft DRC law, which objective is to protect human rights defenders, contains provisions that pose a real threat to the recognition and the legitimate work of human rights defenders. If passed the way it is now, it would restrict and hinder the work of defenders. 

Indeed several provisions in DRC’s draft law go against the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. For instance, article 2 of the law provides protection only to human rights defenders who work in formal and organised structures, while the Declaration clearly states that a human rights defender is a person who 'individually and in association with others promotes and strives for the protection and realization of human rights'. As for articles 3 and 7 they say that human rights defenders have to be member of an NGO, at least 18 years old, hold a State diploma and have received training in human rights delivered by an NGO coordination. Those are clearly excessive and discriminatory provisions that violate international human rights instruments. 

Vincent Ploton, ISHR Director of Development and Treaty Body Advocacy, notes that ‘the Human Rights Committee concerns around the draft HRD law are a clear signal that the Democratic Republic of Congo needs to review this law and rid the provisions that are contrary to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’.

“As a new member of the United Nations' highest authority for the promotion and protection of human rights, the Human Rights Council, the DRC must set an example by adopting a protective law in line with the United Nations Declaration and by meeting the expectations and needs of protection of Congolese defenders. It must also provide an effective protection mechanism necessary for its implementation.” says ISHR’s Clément Voule.

ISHR urges Congolese parliamentarians to revise the draft law to ensure unconditional legal protection and recognition for human rights defenders. By passing the law as it is, DRC would negatively impact the rights of defenders.

ISHR concerns on the draft DRC law on HRDs will be discussed with key national actors as part of a regional consultation on HRD protection laws in Central Africa, which is convened by ISHR and our partners the Central African HRD network (REDHAC), the DRC National Human Rights Commission, SOS IJM and the UN Human Rights Office in Kinshasa, on 13-14 December. The consultation will benefit from the participation of the recently appointed ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Rémy Ngoy Lumbu.

Photo: ISHR


  • Africa
  • National HRDs laws/policies
  • Congo (Kinshasa)