Democratic Republic of Congo: Human Rights Groups Request Special Session of Human Rights Council

For Immediate Release

Democratic Republic of Congo: Human Rights Groups Request Special Session of Human Rights Council

WASHINGTON - As the civilian death toll in the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to rise, Amnesty
International, Human Rights Watch and more than forty other
organizations active in Africa warned today that the situation in the
eastern DRC is at risk of turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, and
called on the UN Human Rights Council to convene a special session on
the crisis without delay.

In a letter sent today to Ambassador Martin Uhomoibi, President of
the UN Human Rights Council, the organizations called on the Human
Rights Council to use this special session to foster effective measures
to protect the thousands of civilians suffering and at risk in the
region.

Specifically, the organizations asked the Council to appoint a
Special Envoy for the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to report on
the human rights situation and recommend the concrete steps needed to
respond to it.

In the letter, the organizations said to Ambassador Uhomoibi: "The
hostilities in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have already
taken a devastating toll on civilians. Everything possible should be
done to prevent a further deterioration of an already dire situation.
The Human Rights Council must not to turn its back on the victims of
the Democratic Republic of Congo."

Notes to editors:

  • At least 250,000 civilians, most of them women and children, have
    been displaced by recent fighting in the eastern DRC, bringing the
    total number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in North Kivu from
    this and previous rounds of conflict to well over one million, and to
    as high as 1.6 million according to some estimates.  Most are in a
    desperate situation, without sufficient food, water, medical supplies
    or shelter. 
  • International humanitarian operations are only just restarting
    after the fighting, many IDPs remain inaccessible and some humanitarian
    operations are suspended because of the fragile security situation.
    There have also been reports of numerous summary executions.
  • The Human Rights Council is required to convene in special session
    if a request is made by sixteen members of the Council to the President
    and the Secretariat of the Council. A special session must be convened
    as soon as possible after a formal request is made, in principle not
    earlier than two working days and not later than five working days
    after the receipt of the request.
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