Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Introduction

The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to promote democracy and human rights. For background on DRC's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Mission priorities will focus on reinforcing Congolese political will and capacity for robust and effective leadership and oversight at all levels of government. Together with Washington and other diplomatic missions, Embassy Kinshasa will identify and engage key decision-makers and implement results-oriented initiatives to support transparent governance, legislative accountability, judicial independence and effectiveness, political pluralism, and provincial and local autonomy. U.S. democracy promotion priorities will facilitate eventual assumption of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (MONUC) functions by Congolese institutions and will support the government's financial, technical and logistical preparations for 2011 elections. Public outreach will emphasize the legitimacy of elections, and human and civil rights, including civilian protection and the rule of law. With the help of Congolese and international partners, the U.S. will develop programs to increase citizens' influence on public policy and expand the legal framework of governance and the rule of law.

The U.S. Government supports justice sector development to combat impunity and increase access to legal services with assistance to both military and civilian courts, legal aid, and legislative reform.

U.S. assistance targets national and provincial legislatures, courts in pilot jurisdictions, and provincial and municipal authorities. A free and responsible press is an important component of democratic society; various U.S. programs support journalistic ethics, media capacity building and local efforts to increase press freedom and public access to information. In addition, in light of the role that exploitation of natural resources and corruption play in prolonging the conflict and contributing to human rights abuses in the eastern regions of the country, the U.S. Government is increasing support for efforts to increase transparency in the management of natural resources and stability in mineral-rich areas.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

The United States continues to provide training and other support to key government institutions, such as the National Assembly, provincial assemblies, provincial ministries and courts, the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), and new judicial structures, as well as to journalists and NGO activists. U.S. funding also assists initiatives to improve draft legislation on decentralization, elections management, and the national budget. Funding also goes to local efforts to facilitate dialogue between civil society, students, and elected officials. A new U.S.-funded program focuses on civic and voter education to increase public awareness and turnout, promote women's participation, and help the CEI prepare for the upcoming national and local elections.

U.S.-sponsored public diplomacy efforts have continued to support democracy promotion. U.S. Government International Visitor Leadership programs have sent legislators, judges, journalists, human rights activists, and local government officials to the United States to meet with American counterparts. Participants learned about key aspects of U.S. democracy, such as federalism, the legislative process and judicial system, and the relationship between elected officials, constituents, and civil society. Working closely with the U.S Government, the association of Congolese alumni of U.S.-funded exchange and education programs organized a seminar on the Freedom of Information Law that resulted in draft legislation being debated in parliament. The U.S. Government supports press freedom NGOs in their efforts to build freer and more responsible local media. The U.S. Embassy works in partnership with other foreign embassies, and local and international NGOs, to encourage the government to improve press freedom, decriminalize press offenses, and collaborate on multilateral projects such as journalist workshops and seminars aimed at building local media capacity.

Reform of the justice sector and promotion of accountability for human rights abuses remain major challenges. For this reason the United States continues to support the establishment of mobile courts to bring essential judicial services to remote areas of the provinces of Katanga, Maniema, South Kivu, and Bandundu. U.S. programs continue to promote judicial independence and accountability by helping the High Council of Magistrates adopt and implement its internal operating procedures and organizational structures, as well as appropriate disciplinary procedures for sitting judges. Assistance also supports the drafting and adoption of a magistrates' code of ethics and ethics training. To strengthen civil society and further support the establishment of the rule of law, the U.S. Government trained local associations in court monitoring and human rights and facilitated dialogue between the judiciary and public stakeholders to increase understanding of the justice process and to introduce new reforms. To complement these efforts, the U.S. Government will increase our broad-based media programs this year to improve the quality of journalism, strengthen the institutional capacity and financial viability of select media outlets, and increase the flow of information on key policy areas.

The U.S provides training to security force unit commanders on rule of law in a disciplined military including command responsibility for prevention of human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), international humanitarian law and ethics. In cooperation with military magistrates, the U.S. has compiled and printed a book of international humanitarian and human rights laws for distribution to military officers attending these trainings.

Recognizing the difficulties faced by human rights defenders, the U.S. continues to explore ways to provide urgent assistance to defenders who are under threat, including by providing legal assistance to journalists or NGO activists who may have been arrested arbitrarily for politically motivated reasons, or by providing security measures to defenders receiving death threats.

The U.S. diplomatic presence in North Kivu Province, in addition to several high-level visits to the region by senior U.S. diplomats including the Secretary of State, facilitated increased monitoring of the human rights situation in the country. Following the Secretary's visit, five U.S. Government interagency teams assessed anticorruption efforts, food security, economic governance, sexual and gender-based violence, and security sector reform and provided recommendations to the government. In addition, the U.S Government innovation specialists undertook a mission to North Kivu to explore ways in which new technologies could be leveraged to fight impunity, prevent sexual and SGBV, and increase transparency in the mineral trade.

The U.S. Government trained local government officials in North Kivu and Maniema on good governance principles and their role in decentralization, including the officials' obligations to constituencies, resource management, and public spending. Another U.S.-funded program utilized community-based radio theater to mediate conflict and encourage dialogue in vulnerable communities in the DRC's eastern provinces. Assistance from the United States strengthened the capacity of civil society organizations in South Kivu to raise awareness of the SGBV law, identify issues related to its application, and encourage increased use of the justice system to combat SGBV. U.S. funding continued to provide care for victims of SGBV. For example a U.S.-funded local NGO in Orientale Province provides victims transport to a medical center, physical and psychological aid services, and legal assistance. In North Kivu Province, U.S. funding provides free legal assistance and psychological counseling to victims of sex crimes and trains justice sector professionals in applying the SGBV law, which directly has resulted in dozens of rape convictions and many more cases that were still under consideration. In addition a new program develops the capacity of justice sector actors and local community leaders to employ forensics techniques to preserve evidence and conduct investigations of mass violence and SGBV in North Kivu. The United States continues to fund a program to prevent the worst forms of child labor and to reintegrate war-affected children, including child soldiers.

The U.S. plans to increase efforts to foster transparency in the mineral trade in the eastern provinces, in part by building the capacity of government regulatory agencies and civil society to ensure that the mineral trade is not supporting illicit activities and human rights abuses by armed groups or certain military units.

[This is a mobile copy of Congo, Democratic Republic of the]