25th August, 2014. Brussels, Belgium – Last week Protection International had the pleasure of welcoming Roger Muchuba from its new liaison office in Kinshasa of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since May 2014, Roger has been researching primary factors influencing protection of human rights defenders as well as a related law initiative in the DRC, and spent last Thursday and Friday August 21-22 meeting with high-level officials and organisations in Brussels and The Hague and briefing them on the situation.
Roger’s programme included meetings with the newly appointed Dutch Ambassador to the DRC H.E. Gerard Michels, colleagues at Netherlands’ Foreign Ministry and the CICC in The Hague, and the European External Action Service, the NGO Network EURAC and Sub-Saharans Africa Desk of Belgium’s Foreign Ministry in Brussels.
After an initial law draft to protect human rights defenders in the DRC was rejected in 2007, a new bill was presented to the DRC’s National Assembly in 2011 with the support of the acting Minister of Justice. Yet according to Roger, “This law initiative has not yet been adopted and is nearing a dead end. It was initially rejected due to claims that other legislative devices already exist protecting human rights defenders and therefore making them a specific category to protect would be unconstitutional.”
“Several stakeholders feel there is a need to reassess this decision,” added Roger, “which is why another attempt at the law is necessary with a broader civil society involvement and a thorough review of the law draft”.
Stakeholders in Brussels and The Hague were very appreciative of Roger’s visit and invited him to work closely with international partners in the DRC. In terms of conceiving an improved law proposal protecting human rights defenders, Roger underlined the importance of implicating all actors of civil society – including policy makers and national members of Parliament – in the drafting process. “Such an approach has seen success in cases similar to ours concerning a specific law like that protecting indigenous Pygmy populations” explains Roger, “At the same time, it will be important to follow neighbouring countries’ experiences like in Burundi and Côte D’Ivoire, and even learn from similar experiences in Latina America.”
Roger estimated that, if advancements continue to be made in the law draft’s review and promotion, he could then foresee an initial proposal being presented to DRC’s National Assembly during its March 2015 Parliamentary session.
For more information on Protection International’s work in the DRC, click here.