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TITLE:  CONGO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                             CONGO


During 1993 the Republic of Congo's young democracy was 
severely tried by several episodes of violent civil unrest.  
Throughout the year, President Pascal Lissouba, who was freely 
elected in 1992, governed with the support of a group of 
parties known as the Presidential Movement.  The authority of 
his Government, however, faced challenges from a changing 
coalition of opposition parties.  Strikes in March and tensions 
following first-round legislative elections in May gave way to 
armed conflict in June and July.  Mediation efforts by the 
Organization of African Unity and the President of Gabon 
succeeded in avoiding civil war in August, but combat in the 
capital, Brazzaville, again erupted in November between 
opposition supporters and elements of the Government's security 
forces.  Fighting continued sporadically through the end of the 
year.

The August agreement, known as the Libreville Accords, 
stipulated acceptance of the results of the first round of 
elections--with a panel of international arbiters to decide 
whether new elections should be called for a limited number of 
contested seats awarded in the first round--and scheduled a 
rerun of the second round of elections.  The opposition 
alliance, the Union for Democratic Renewal-Congolese Workers 
Party (URD-PCT) won 8 of the 11 seats contested in the second 
round of elections held October 6.  The seating of these 
opposition deputies in the new National Assembly in late 
October appeared to signal the success of the Accords, but was 
soon overshadowed by renewed fighting between the army and 
opposition militias.

The armed forces, which had played a critical role in earlier, 
successful steps toward the establishment of a democratic 
system, ultimately demonstrated loyalty to the chain of command 
and carried out the orders of President Lissouba.  However, 
opposition parties continued to maintain independent militias,  
and the presidentially recruited Aubeville militia, along with 
the Presidential Guard, remained outside the regular military 
chain of command.  In December the Government acknowledged the 
danger of this proliferation of irregular forces and pledged to 
integrate all groups into the official security forces.  
Individual soldiers, and members of the Presidential Guard and 
the partisan militias, were implicated in a full range of 
abuses.  In November the army's strategy included firing heavy 
artillery rounds into residential neighborhoods, causing many 
civilian casualties.


The economy is in transition from socialism to a free market 
system, and the 1992 Constitution recognizes private property 
rights.  In recent years, the economy has been heavily 
dependent on petroleum earnings and external borrowing.  Faced 
with the collapse of world oil prices after 1985 and saddled 
with one of the world's largest per capita debts, Congo has 
been under pressure from international lending institutions to 
implement strict structural adjustment measures and free market 
economic policies.  Despite political turmoil, Parliament began 
to implement necessary austerity measures in late 1993.

Following the enormous strides achieved between 1990 and 1992, 
the human rights situation seriously deteriorated in 1993.  
While citizens now legally enjoy many civil and political 
liberties denied them in the recent past, 1993 saw the 
perpetration of widespread abuses.  Militias loyal to faction 
leaders held hostages from rival groups and engaged in numerous 
instances of looting, burning, rape, and physical assault.  In 
the violence, at least 200 and perhaps many more persons died, 
many homes were destroyed, and tens of thousands of people had 
to flee their neighborhoods in which other ethnic groups 
dominated.  The Government exercised tight control over the 
media and expelled a Radio France International correspondent 
for failing to stick to the Government's preferred message.  
Other human rights problems persisted:  reports of police 
brutality, deplorable prison conditions, societal 
discrimination against women, and the exploitation of Pygmy 
villagers in remote parts of the country.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The death toll from the June-July unrest was probably between 
35 and 50.  Military actions in November, centered against 
armed militias in the opposition stronghold of Bacongo, and the 
fighting in December produced even more casualties.  Supporters 
of both the Government and the two main opposition parties were 
equally implicated in politically motivated violence.  Except 
for the Presidential Guard, the armed forces and police in 
their institutional capacity were not directly involved in 
political killings, though individual soldiers and police 
officers, acting in support of the President, and some members 
of the President's irregular militia committed offenses while 
dressed in police and army uniforms.  The Government ignored 
calls from international groups to investigate human rights 
abuses and took no steps to identify supporters who 
participated in extrajudicial killings in 1993.  While the army 
assault in November was directed at opposition militias, many 
deaths occurred in incidents apart from that conflict, and 
victims appeared to have been targeted on the basis of ethnic 
and political affiliation.

     b.  Disappearance

Each stage of civil unrest throughout the year produced 
numerous credible reports of kidnapings and disappearances, 
both political and for ransom.  Many people fled to their home 
villages without notifying local friends or family, and thus 
may wrongly still be reported as missing.  There were also 
numerous reports of varying credibility of bodies thrown into 
the river or buried in the neighborhoods of Brazzaville, making 
an accurate accounting for those missing at the end of the year 
virtually impossible.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits the use of torture, but there were 
unsubstantiated, but reliable and persistent, reports of 
torture employed by partisans of both the Government and the 
opposition during the crisis in June and July.  These abuses 
included reports of rape and mutilation, e.g., allegations of 
the amputation of fingers and hands.  Videotaped accounts of 
abuses inflicted by both officials and civilians and interviews 
with victims on both sides of the conflict lent credence to 
such claims.  

Military and security forces continue to employ unacceptable 
interrogation methods.  Army, police, and customs officials 
beat detainees, particularly accused thieves and those who 
resisted arrest, to extract information and as punishment.  
Military and security force leaders tacitly condoned such 
beatings, failing to try and punish offenders and failing to 
provide effective training in the lawful treatment of suspects.

Prison conditions remained dire.  Buildings are dilapidated, 
security lax, constructive activities such as classes or 
exercises are nonexistent, and food and medical care are 
inadequate.  Most prisons, built during French colonial rule 
when convicted felons were sent out of the country, were never 
designed for long-term prisoners.  Dozens of prisoners are 
often kept in the same cell for long periods of time, sleeping 
on the floor and subsisting on only one meal per day.  
Malnutrition and disease in prison are generally untreated, and 
some deaths occur.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The new Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or 
exile.  While the Code of Penal Procedure requires that all 
detainees be brought before a judge within 3 days and be 
charged or released within 3 months, these limits are often 
ignored in practice due to official indifference and limited 
resources.  Delays in bringing cases to trial and arbitrary 
denial of bail continued to be problems in 1993. 

During the July crisis, partisans on all sides engaged in 
arbitrary arrests and kidnapings, often solely to exchange 
hostages.  The total number of these extralegal detentions was 
probably in the hundreds, but most were for very short 
periods.  Partisans seized many people at roadblocks, at 
schools, and on the streets, including in late October two 
government officials from their homes.  The officials were 
released on November 1, but subsequent violence led to many new 
arbitrary arrests and detentions by official and unofficial 
forces.

Exile is not used as a means of political control.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

Modeled on French institutions, the judicial system consists 
primarily of local courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme 
Court.  The National Conference in 1991 abolished all special 
courts and secret trials.  Defendants have the right to be 
represented by lawyers of their choice, and the State will 
cover legal fees in cases of destitution.  There are credible 
reports of prisoners languishing--sometimes for years--in jail 
because of lost files, oversights, and bureaucratic inertia.  
The judiciary is overburdened with a caseload that far exceeds 
its capacity to ensure fair public trial.  

In rural areas, traditional courts continued to handle many 
local disputes, especially property cases and probate 
functions.  Dispute resolution in these traditional courts is 
by extended debate, with no known instances of resort to 
physical punishment.  Many domestic disputes are also 
adjudicated under traditional law or within the context of the 
extended family.

During the state of emergency in June and July, the President 
suspended constitutional guarantees, but the Government 
promptly rescinded the declaration when order was restored.  
The violence in November did not produce a new state of 
emergency declaration.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
         Correspondence

The Constitution protects the privacy of the home, 
correspondence, and telecommunications.  Under current law, all 
official searches of private properties and communications 
require a warrant.  The transitional government announced 
publicly in 1992 that the police have limited powers and 
encouraged citizens to insist on their rights.  It also 
prohibited the maintenance of security files on citizens who 
had not been accused of violating the law.  These measures 
remained in force.  However, there was a widespread--if only 
anecdotally supported--belief that the Government continued to 
make use of the telephone-tapping equipment remaining from the 
days of East Germany's tutelage of the secret police.  During 
November, without first attempting to undertake lawful search, 
the army responded to unconfirmed reports of weapon caches by 
bombarding some houses with tank cannon fire.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Like the bill of rights that preceded it, the 1992 Constitution 
provides for freedom of expression and calls for the 
establishment of a special court to help safeguard freedoms of 
speech and press.  That court has not been established, 
however, and, despite constitutional and judicial protections, 
the media enjoy only limited freedom.

While people speak freely and opposition newspapers are 
permitted to circulate, censorship became pervasive in 1993.  
Prime Minster Yhombi-Opango declared on June 24 that "only 
information emanating from state organs" would be broadcast by 
state radio and television and that news and declarations of 
political parties and associations would not be carried.  Since 
the state media have a monopoly on local radio and 
television--the main means of communicating with the 
public--opposition parties were effectively excluded from 
official broadcast and print media, having only indirect access 
to radio and television through broadcasts from neighboring 
Zaire.

The Government announced but did not implement its statement 
that ll parties would have equal access to radio and television 
during the October elections.  Actual coverage of the 
opposition was nearly nonexistent, and accusations of 
censorship remained unanswered.  The opposition's attempt to 
establish its own radio station was one of the precipitating 
events leading to the outbreak of hostilities in November.  In 
a November 9 speech, President Lissouba committed to providing 
radio and television time to opposition parties.  At year's 
end, however, no steps had been taken to implement the proposal.

During November's disturbances, the Government objected to the 
reporting of a Radio France International journalist, 
Frederique Genot, the only resident foreign correspondent in 
Brazzaville.  After she failed to change her reporting despite 
several reprimands, the Government took Genot into custody for 
2 days and then expelled her from the country.

Academic freedom is respected.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution also provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  In practice, any group wishing to hold a public 
assembly must inform the Minister of the Interior, who reserves 
the right to forbid assemblies which threaten, in the 
Government's view, public peace or welfare.  There were no 
reports of government denials of such requests in 1993.  
However, the Government placed strict limits on the time period 
during which campaigning was permitted before elections, and 
some opposition gatherings were broken up by uniformed and 
armed military shortly before the opening of the 
September-October legislative campaign.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion; people are free to join any church 
and practice any religion.  Denominations not already 
established must register with the State, a sometimes 
cumbersome process.  Many different creeds were represented in 
President Lissouba's administration.


     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution declares the right of all citizens to 
circulate freely within the country and specifically prohibits 
roadblocks and barricades.  Barricades were nonetheless 
widespread during civil disturbances, erected by army troops, 
members of the Presidential Guard, and opposition supporters.  
The National Conference Charter of Rights gives all citizens 
the right to leave the country and to return.

The country maintained its traditional hospitality toward 
refugees and asylum seekers.  The U.N. High Commissioner for 
Refugees (UNHCR) has registered over 8,000 refugees from 
Cabinda, Angola, and almost 3,000 Cabindans live in a camp run 
by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red 
Crescent.  The UNHCR also list over 2,200 Chadian refugees in 
1993, as well as over 400 Zairians, and 300 Central Africans.  
A large number of other Zairians--mostly economic 
refugees--currently live in Congo.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens
           to Change Their Government

Citizens have this right, but disagreement between the 
political groupings over the constitutional powers of the 
Presidency and the National Assembly led to near civil war in 
1993.  After disagreements with the National Assembly, the 
President dissolved Parliament in November 1992 and called for 
new elections in 1993.  The opposition disputed his right to 
form an interim government, charged that the first round of 
legislative elections on May 2 were fraudulent, and refused to 
participate in the second round of elections on June 6, 
provoking the civil disturbances.  During this period, the new 
125-seat National Assembly opened on June 22--despite a boycott 
by the 49 URD-PCT members--and the President appointed the 
former army head, General Joachim Yhombi-Opango, as the 
country's new Prime Minister.

Subsequently, in the Libreville Accords, the parties, inter 
alia, recognized the published results of the first round of 
elections and stipulated that the second round of elections 
would be rerun.  In the new second round of elections held 
October 6, the opposition won 8 of the 11 National Assembly 
seats at stake, thereby reducing the Presidential Movement's 
majority.  A College of International Arbiters is considering 
claims that results for 56 seats in the first-round elections 
were tainted.  The disputed seats include 22 now held by 
Government supporters and 34 held by the opposition.

Women are poorly represented in the political process.  The 
Lissouba Government includes 2 women as part of its 28-member 
Cabinet.  Women also represent only a tiny minority in the 
security forces.  While not officially prohibited, the 
indigenous Pygmies, living in remote regions, are largely 
excluded from the political process (see Section 5).

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several local human rights organizations remained active in 
1993.  These included the National Committee on Human Rights, 
the Congolese Human Rights League, and a committee of the 
Congolese Association of Women Lawyers.  Other special interest 
organizations included groups representing the rights of 
prisoners, women, children, and the handicapped.  All freely 
criticized past government human rights violations as well as 
abusive and discriminatory aspects of some traditional local 
customs.

In addition, the Government actively encouraged and even 
solicited the presence of international and nongovernmental 
(NGO) observers for elections held during the year.  However, 
it refused to establish a committee to investigate past human 
rights violations, including torture and extrajudicial 
executions, as requested by international groups.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The new Constitution specifically forbids such discrimination, 
but much traditional discrimination persisted, particularly 
against women and Pygmies.

     Women

Although the new Constitution prohibits discrimination based on 
gender and specifically endorses the right of women to earn 
equal pay for equal work, discrimination against women is 
endemic.  Inequities persist in salaries as well as in 
employment opportunities and access to education.  According to 
one 1991 U.N. study, females receive only 33 percent of the 
schooling provided to males.  While traditional inheritance 
customs favor maternal links, marriage and family laws overtly 
discriminate against women; for example, adultery is considered 
illegal for women but not for men, and polygyny is accepted.  
Women in rural areas are especially disadvantaged in terms of 
education and wage employment and are confined largely to 
family farm labor and child-raising responsibilities.

Nonetheless, educated women are increasingly finding pay equity 
and promotion opportunities more in consonant with their 
individual abilities, notably in white-collar and government 
jobs.  Their qualifications are often enhanced by scholarships 
and foreign-sponsored studies.  Women are also filling jobs 
once reserved only for males, such as magistrates and customs 
inspectors.

Violence against women occurs frequently.  In particular, wife 
beating is an accepted practice, and cases are usually handled 
within the context of the extended family.  Only in extreme 
instances of abuse are cases prosecuted in the courts.  The 
issue of violence against women is largely ignored by the 
general population, including the media.  The police rarely 
intervene in domestic disputes.

     Children

The Constitution states that the Government must protect 
children in accordance with international conventions.  Child 
labor is illegal, and education is mandatory to age 16.  In 
practice, limited state resources prevent achievement of these 
objectives, particularly in rural areas.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Pygmies, an ethnic minority numbering about 7,000 persons 
and living primarily in the northern forest areas, are 
theoretically provided by the Constitution with the same rights 
as other citizens.  However, in practice--in a society in which 
Bantu Congolese predominate in all respects--they do not enjoy 
equal treatment.  In particular, they are exploited as a source 
of cheap labor.  Pygmy workers are generally underpaid for 
their work relative to others, with compensation often being in 
the form of clothing, food, or other goods instead of wages.  
This practice is reinforced by an ancestral tradition of Pygmy 
slavery by Bantus, and in 1993 there were still reports that 
this practice continued in isolated locations.  One human 
rights monitor reported "incontrovertible evidence" that Bantus 
in the north exploit Pygmies in slave-like conditions.  In the 
past, Pygmies were denied access to public education, health, 
and other basic services and to the right to own property.  
Pygmies have traditionally also been excluded from the 
political process.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution provides the handicapped "specific measures of 
protection in relation to their needs."  In practice, this 
means very little, though the Government has provided 
handpowered tricycles to some polio victims, and some special 
education is provided to the handicapped.  The Government has 
an office charged with the welfare of handicapped persons, but 
its efforts in this area are limited by severe resource 
constraints.  A Congolese NGO works actively to better 
conditions for the handicapped.  There is no law mandating 
accessibility to buildings.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Both the Constitution and the Labor Code affirm the right of 
workers to associate freely, allowing no restrictions on the 
formation of trade unions or on the right of workers to join a 
union.  Nearly all workers are union members in the formal 
(wage) sector, and efforts have been made to unionize the 
informal sector.  There is a small agricultural union.

Unions are now free to join or form new federations or 
confederations.  However, the Congolese Trade Union 
Confederation (CSC), formerly the only officially recognized 
union confederation, is still a powerful force and in 1993 
remained the only umbrella labor organization.  After the 1991 
National Conference revoked CSC's monopoly status and abolished 
the checkoff system, which gave CSC much of its power 
advantage, numerous small competing unions organized.  The 
Secretary General of the CSC is also a member of the National 
Assembly.

Unions are free to strike but must file a letter of intent to 
strike with the Ministry of Labor beforehand, which starts a 
process of arbitration.  In theory, a strike may not take place 
until after both parties have submitted to a process of 
nonbinding arbitration under the auspices of a regional labor 
inspector from the Labor Ministry.  The letter of intent must 
also include notification of a strike date, at which time the 
strike can legally begin even if arbitration is not complete.  
Employers theoretically may fire workers if no notification is 
given before a strike.  In practice, these aspects of the Labor 
Code are seldom enforced, and many strikes have occurred 
without prior attempts to resolve disputes through arbitration.

There were a number of strikes in 1993, including actions 
against oil companies, oil-related service firms, and 
state-owned companies employing railway and electrical 
maintenance workers.  The public sector was particularly hard 
hit by labor disputes which erupted in strikes at the 
Ministries of Agriculture, Mines and Energy, Commerce, Culture, 
and Finance.  Strikers most often sought increases in pay or 
other monetary benefits or, in the case of civil servants, back 
wages now overdue for 8 months.  Public workers' strikes in 
March 1993 were resolved with relatively little civil 
disturbance, and unions remained relatively quiet as more 
serious unrest erupted later in the year.

Unions are free to affiliate with international trade unions.  
Exercising this new freedom, some trade unions signed 
cooperative accords with other African, European, and American 
trade union organizations.  Although the CSC has not formally 
disaffiliated from the formerly Soviet-controlled World 
Federation of Trade Unions, the relationship has all but 
dissolved due to lack of interest or funding.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

Still adapting to the new freedom of trade union pluralism, the 
old Labor Code, dating from 1975, remains unreformed.  Neither 
have laws been adopted to create a new legal framework for 
collective bargaining.  In the past, many benefits were legally 
mandated and industry-specific wage scales or "conventions" 
were determined by negotiated agreement between representatives 
of the union, the employer or employers' association, the 
Ministry of Labor, and the ruling Congolese Workers Party.  
Independent unions may now negotiate freely on their own or in 
cooperation with other unions, federations, or confederations.

Under the Constitution, employers are forbidden from 
discriminating against employees who exercise their 
constitutional right to organize or join a union.  There have 
been no reported recent cases of firings for union activities.

There are no export processing zones.


     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, and there is 
no evidence of its practice in the formal economy.  (See 
Section 5, however, for a discussion of allegations of the 
slave-like exploitation of Pygmies.)
 
     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution specifically prohibits children under the age 
of 16 from working.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible for 
enforcing child labor laws but concentrates its efforts on the 
formal wage sector.  Children often work at younger ages on 
small family subsistence farms in rural areas and can be seen 
working in the informal economic sectors of the cities without 
government intervention.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets a minimum wage of about $80 a month (23,500 
FCFA), a level which in theory allows for "human dignity."  In 
those trades still subject to "conventions" (see Section 6.b.), 
the negotiated minimum wages are without exception considerably 
higher than the legal minimum.  Yet, even these preferential 
salary scales often set minimum wages quite low relative to the 
exorbitant cost of living.  To make ends meet, many workers are 
obliged to hold second jobs, practice subsistence agriculture, 
or receive help from the extended family.  During 1993, this 
was particularly true for government workers, who were forced 
to cope with salary backlogs of several months.

The Constitution provides for not only reasonable pay, but also 
paid holidays, periodic paid vacations, and legal limits on 
allowable hours of work.  The standard legal workweek is 42 
hours.  There is no specific requirement for a 24-hour rest 
period.  The Labor Code stipulates that overtime must be paid 
for all work in excess of 40 hours per week and that regular 
days of leisure must be granted by employers.

Although health and safety regulations require twice-yearly 
visits by enforcement officers from the Ministry of Labor, in 
practice such inspections occur on a much less regular basis.  
There is no specific regulation granting workers the right to 
remove themselves from hazardous situations, but unions are 
generally effective in protecting members. (###)


[end of document]

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