GENEVA (4 June 2018) – UN human rights experts urge the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to undertake a comprehensive review of a draft Bill aimed at regulating the work of non-governmental organisations, saying it threatens the vital work of civil society.
The Bill sets new restrictions aimed at reducing the number of NGOs operating in the country. The draft law should be examined before the end of the current session of Parliament on 15 June despite the fact that the experts shared their concerns regarding this Bill in recent exchanges with the Government.
“If adopted in its present form, the Bill threatens the rights to freedoms of expression and of association and will further restrict civic space in the country,” the experts said.
“We are particularly concerned about certain provisions, some of them overly vaguely worded, which impose burdensome and discretionary administrative requirements for registration of associations, as well as the lack of judicial control over the procedure. Furthermore, the Bill introduces restrictions on access to domestic and foreign funding and on the possibility for foreign organizations to engage in ‘political activities’.
“All these requirements threaten the ability of civil society to operate, and underlines a drive to stifle dissenting voices. It will most likely create confusion and fear among civil society, and have a chilling effect on human rights defenders and other activists.”
The experts said associations should be free to determine their status and the scope of their activities without State interference, and access to funding constitutes an inherent part of their right to associate. The registration procedures, when they exist, should be simple, non-onerous and expeditious.
“It is worth mentioning that the same session of Parliament should also adopt the Bill on the protection of human rights defenders and their activities in the DRC, which seems to lead to further restriction of their role and activities. Put together, this new legal framework could drastically impede the role of the civil society, which is even more crucial in this electoral year,” the experts said.
The experts urged the Congolese authorities to undertake a comprehensive review of the draft Bill in light of international human rights standards, in particular the African Guidelines on freedom of association and assembly, and stand ready to provide technical assistance.
*The UN experts: Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, is Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Michel Forst, is Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.