Spokespeople for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:
“We welcome the signing of the political accord in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 31 December, which we hope will mark a turning point in the country.
“The agreement, which was reached after the careful mediation of the National Episcopal Conference (CENCO), represents an opportunity to ensure that everyone, including political opponents, journalists and civil society representatives, are able to fully exercise their right to freedoms of association and peaceful assembly, opinion, and expression. One immediate step the DRC authorities can take regarding this is to lift the restrictions and bans imposed on various media organisations in recent months.
“It is important that the Government, opposition parties, civil society and all Congolese citizens work to ensure the implementation of the accord and the creation of an environment conducive to free, fair, and credible elections. We therefore urge President Joseph Kabila to publicly endorse the agreement.
“It is also essential that measures are in place to avoid a repeat of the violence which has erupted in the DRC, notably in Kinshasa in September 2016 when some 54 people were killed, and most recently in December when at least 40 people were killed and hundreds arrested across the country.
“We welcome the fact that the agreement stipulates that emblematic cases of political prisoners will be examined by a commission of high-ranking judges (commission des hauts magistrats). Such measures need to be extended to all political prisoners and to others, including journalists and members of civil society, who may have been detained illegally.
“If the agreement is implemented before the end of 2017, it would represent an important development for the region and, we hope, an example for the DRC’s neighbours to follow.”