DRC

ACTIVITIES

Capacity building

Protection International (PI) DRC provides tools and strategies to defenders so that they may protect themselves by making an informed risk analysis, and then taking all steps to elaborate and implement effective security plans. 

PI looks to protect the physical security of human rights defenders as well as seeks to find ways to mitigate and campaign against state criminalisation of human rights work including judicial harassment, marginalisation, and other forms of state repression. 

Protection International’s team has strengthened the capacity of civil society in North and South Kivu in the fields of physical and digital security, through the Ukingo Wetu network in North Kivu and through SOS- Information Juridique Multisectorielle (SOS-IJM) in South Kivu.  The Ukingo Wetu network, comprised of eight leading Congolese human rights organisations based in the province; these organisations include Centre de Recherche sur l'Environnement, la Démocratie et les Droits de l'Homme (CREDDHO); Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Développement (CVPD); Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVS); Forum des Organisations Nationales de Droits Humains (FONADH); Centre d'Appui pour le Développement Rural et Communautaire (CADERCO); Association Africaine de Défense des Droits de l'Homme (ASADHO); Solidarité Féminine pour la Paix et le Développement Intégral (SOFEPADI) et Groupe d'Associations de Défence des Droits Humains et de la Paix (GADHOP).  

 

Digital security

Congolese human rights defenders work in precarious environments using mobile phones and computers to communicate and store sensitive information. Protection International (PI)  holds training workshops to equip defenders with the skills and knowledge they need to adopt new tools and practice in order to minimise risk. These sessions also require individualised follow up with defenders and organisations to evaluate the extent to which PI’s support has meaningfully been translated into modified practices for defenders.

 

Protecting women

Protection International (PI) address the specific needs of vulnerable women human rights defenders in the East by analysing the specific context and risks facing certain organisations, and the needs of the communities of women that they protect. One of these organisations is Action des Femmes pour le Développement et la Paix (AFD), based in the Fizi and Uvira territories of South Kivu. 

Discussions that took place with  women activists demonstrated the difference between the risk faced by women because of their gender. Such learning helped shape PI's internal understanding of gender identity issues and protection. This work followed a training with Femme au Fone in June 2015, and with the later re-establishment of the project in 2016, PI is looking to re-establish its partnership.

Since PI's interventions during the reporting period, organisations within SUWE have put in place alert systems to communicate messages when their members face difficulties or dangers on the ground.

 

Coordinating emergency responses

Protection International (PI)  supports interventions on cases of human rights defenders at risk in North Kivu and South Kivu in cooperation with local civil society networks set up specifically for this purpose. 

As PI works with individuals and organisations to effectively implement strategies aimed at preventative protection in order  to prevent emergency situations, many individuals at risk consequently have the skills and knowledge to put in place their own security plans in order to reduce their own vulnerability in the face of physical violence, harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest. 

On occasions when the risk becomes too much, PI can offer advice and expertise in response to emergencies and if relevant and necessary, activates its contacts and network to immediately attend to the situation.

 

Challenging impunity

If fatal attacks against human rights defenders go unpunished, impunity will continue and all defenders will remain at risk. Protection International (PI)  advocates for justice on behalf of individuals and their families, including Serge Maheshe, Evariste Kasali, Pascal Kabungulu and Floribert Chebeya.

 

Pushing for more effective state accountability

It is essential to improve the response of state actors when human rights defenders are threatened or killed and strengthen the authorities’ awareness of their obligation to protect. PI continues to develop relations with the Congolese army and police forces in order to push for accountability within state institutions through regular exchange. Protection International also undertakes advocacy in Brussels and Kinshasa with diplomatic representations and other international bodies.

 

Establishing legislation to protect

On 10 February 2016, the Governor of South Kivu promulgated an edict on the protection of human rights defenders and journalists in South Kivu, following advocacy by Protection International and Congolese civil society. PI continues to work with the provincial authorities in South Kivu to abide by the provisions of the edict and turn it into a reality. 

Following the example, a project of Edit in North Kivu is under way while a draft law is being voted upon at national level,  after being sparked by the visit of Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders in February 2017, upon invitation of PI for an academic visit.