The United Nations has welcomed the progress made in the fight against torture in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the enactment two years ago of a law criminalizing the practice.
According to a news release issued by the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) - comprised of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country - the first convictions of state agents who engaged in or encouraged torture have taken place.
Since the law criminalizing torture was enacted on 9 July 2011, at least five soldiers of the Congolese armed forces (FARDC), five agents of the Congolese National Police, one agent of the national intelligence service and one administrative official have been convicted for practicing and/or encouraging the use of torture.
Sentences, which ranged from six months to life imprisonment, were imposed by courts in Equateur, Bas Congo, Kasai Occidental, Katanga, Maniema and Orientale provinces.
"The UNJHRO has spared no effort to support investigation missions conducted by judicial authorities, as well as the holding of mobile courts, some of which have resulted in the conviction of perpetrators of torture," stated the news release.
"The UNJHRO has also organized several outreach activities with concerned actors on the content of the law," it added.
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Mendez, has also welcomed the "considerable" progress which has been made by the Government to ensure conformity with national law and international standards and to put an end to the cycle of impunity which prevails for acts of torture.
"International human rights law implies an absolute and non-derogable ban on the use of torture as well as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," he stated.
Mendez called on the Government "to make sure that every allegation of torture or of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is investigated by law enforcement officers and that those responsible are held accountable for their acts."
The UNJHRO continues to register cases of torture in all provinces in the country through its monitoring and investigation activities. It adds that, despite progress since the enactment of the law, important challenges remain before torture can be eradicated.