UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders Michel Forst made an academic visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from the 13 to 18 February 2017 upon invitation by Protection International (PI). He was welcomed by representatives of the Bureau Conjoint des Nations Unies aux Droits de l’Homme (BCNUDH), The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) and Protection International.

The delegation headed to MONUSCO in Goma where they were joined by various representatives of local organisations, human rights defenders (HRDs), activist, journalists, women HRDS as well as international partners. Several HRDs shared their stories, voicing their fears and reporting on the intimidations and threats they have been subjected to.

Michel Forst then visited Bukavu and paid a brief visit to members of the Provincial Assembly where the special Rapporteur highlighted the courage shown by human rights defenders (HRDs) as well as the work done by a collective of NGOs (Among which PI and BCNUDH) which enabled the promulgation of a provincial edict on the protection of journalists and defenders. It was also decided that the edict would be mainstreamed for better understanding, especially in rural areas.

The visit was followed by a meeting attended by local and international organisations representatives stressing the security challenges encountered by HRDs but also the impunity of crimes conducted against them.

Afterwards, the UNSR met with Dr Denis Mukwege at the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu where the discussion focused on the political context, youth from grass-root movements and HRDs in rural areas.
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Finally, Michel Forst was received by the Governor of South-Kivu during a meeting attended by all the members of the provincial government as well as advisors of the National Minister on Human Rights sent to the East to follow the UN Special Rapporteur and take part to official meetings. The visit ended with MR Forst praising the efforts made towards the promulgation of the edict and the comparatively low number of incidents during demonstrations in South-Kivu. He however strongly insisted on the necessity to implement the edict without delay.