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The Democratic Republic of Congo reinstates the death penalty

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The decision to reinstate executions in the Democratic Republic of Congo was strongly criticized by human rights organizations.

Agence France-Presse

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has decided to resume capital executions, in particular against soldiers accused of treason, while the east of the country is prey to the advance of the M23 rebellion, supported by the Rwandan army.

The reinstatement of the death penalty was immediately strongly criticized by human rights organizations.

This decision, notified in a circular signed Wednesday by the Minister of Justice, Rose Mutombo, and authenticated Friday by the AFP, lifts the moratorium on the execution of the death penalty, dated 2003, and aims also the perpetrators of urban banditry leading to human deaths.

For two years, the DRC has been facing an offensive by the M23 rebels which are have seized large swaths of the province of North Kivu (east), and have significantly extended their hold towards the north in the last two weeks.

The rout of the Congolese army and its auxiliary militias in the face of the advance of the M23 has fueled suspicions among the authorities of infiltration of the security forces.

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Many soldiers, including senior officers of the FARDC (Armed Forces of the DRC), but also deputies, senators and personalities from the economic world in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, were arrested and accused of complicity with the enemy.

Regularly imposed, particularly in cases involving soldiers or members of armed groups, the death penalty has no longer been applied since the signing of the moratorium decided under the regime of President Joseph Kabila (2001-2019).

Death sentences were since then systematically commuted to life imprisonment. Those sentenced to death then remained detained in Congolese prisons.

Human rights organizations immediately denounced this decision and called for its reversal.

For Amnesty International, the decision of the Congolese authorities is a serious regression and a new sign of the alarming decline of the Tshisekedi administration in terms of human rights. Amnesty therefore considers that it must be canceled.

The Congolese pro-democracy citizen movement LUCHA (Fight for Change) for its part condemned this decision, believing that it opens a corridor to summary executions in this country where the defective functioning of justice is recognized by all, including the supreme magistrate himself, referring to recent criticism from President Félix Tshisekedi towards the DRC's judicial system which he considers to be sick, even in the processing of cases.

Jean-Claude Katende, president of Asadho, one of the main Congolese organizations for the defense of human rights, denounced on possible defendants to certain death.

According to the circular note, the acts of treachery or espionage have exacted a heavy price from both the population and the Republic given the immensity of the damage suffered.

The reinstatement of executions aims to rid our country's army of traitors […] and to stem the resurgence of acts of terrorism and banditry urban resulting in the death of a man, writes the Minister of Justice.

Security sources in the east of the DRC, having requesting anonymity, told AFP that public executions of soldiers accused of collaborating with the enemy, in particular with the M23 rebels and Rwanda, are already planned. p>

Largest country in sub-Saharan Africa (2.3 million km2), the DRC has experienced two wars since the turn of the century (1996-1997 and 1998-2003). The country came close to breaking up during these conflicts, involving numerous militias and the armies of several countries in the region.

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