Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation.’ This means that all people have the right to avoid being harassed or defamed without clear evidence of guilt.
The declaration further states in Article 11 that ‘ Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.’ This means that people should not face a harsher punishment than the law allows. This prevents the people meant to enforce the law from abusing their position of power to violate human rights.
THE SITUATION IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the government – led by President Felix Tshisekedi – has arrested and detained many protesters and activists for criticising the government. This is a violation of the citizen’s right to protest. According to reports, journalists have been taken into custody and beaten for opposing the government. This represents a clear violation of their human rights as they have been punished for a crime they may not have committed. Their right to privacy and to avoid defamation has also been violated.
Before his election, Tshisekedi promised to respect human rights. In his first year in power, it looked like he would fulfil these promises. However, two years later, there has been a rise in oppression which shows that these promises are being neglected. In particular, law enforcement officers are oppressing people who are speaking out against the government. For example, in August the police and soldiers broke into and arrested Hubert Djoko and Albert Lokongo, a journalist and radio technician. They accused them of supporting the rival of the governor of Sankuru province. Law enforcement officials have made up or exaggerated charges to wrongfully arrest young demonstrators. This means that they have said the demonstrators have committed worse misdeeds than they have. As well demonstrators, journalists and other groups are seen as critical of the government have also been targeted.
HOW TO PREVENT HARASSMENT
One effective way to prevent such harassment is to ensure control over law enforcement officers. This means that the government has to take responsibility for and prevent the officers from abusing their power. In addition, the legal system must work independently from the government to ensure justice for those who have been wrongfully arrested.
If the government is responsible for such harassment, international partners of the country must take action to stop these human rights violations and to make sure that the government fulfils promises made during elections. Condemnation from outside is necessary to force the government to change its behaviour.