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TITLE:  CONGO HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995








                             CONGO


The effort to establish democratic government in the Republic 
of Congo was severely tried by episodes of violent civil unrest 
during 1993 and early 1994.  President Pascal Lissouba, freely 
elected in 1992, governs with the parliamentary support of a 
group of parties known as the Presidential Movement.  This 
coalition won a majority in 1993 legislative elections which 
the political opposition challenged, claiming that the first 
round of those elections was fraudulent.  In May 1993 the 
opposition boycotted the second round, leading to violence in 
June and July.  The Organization of African Unity and Gabon 
brokered a peace agreement (the Libreville Accords) in August 
1993, but violence in the capital, Brazzaville, erupted again 
in late 1993 and continued through January 1994.  The 
Government and the opposition signed a peace accord on January 
30.

In early February, under the Libreville Accords, international 
jurists completed their examination of 58 accusations of fraud, 
finding fraud in nine district elections--three from the 
Presidential Movement and six from the opposition.  A few 
months later the Presidential Movement, in cooperation with the 
opposition, began to decentralize power to the regions and the 
municipalities, a process which culminated in the installation 
of Bernard Kolelas, a major opposition figure, as Mayor of 
Brazzaville, and Jean-Pierre Thystere-Tchicaya, another 
opposition leader, as Mayor of Pointe-Noire.

During the civil unrest, the official security apparatus, 
composed of the military and police, lost control over certain 
elements and individuals.  The major political parties 
established private militias, which included police and army 
personnel who had temporarily deserted their units.  These 
private militias were responsible for the bulk of human rights 
abuses, but government troops also committed extrajudicial 
killings, and the police continued to use torture and other 
brutal measures against detainees.  The Government failed in 
most cases to identify and punish the perpetrators.  Drawing 
from the army, the Government formed the Special Interposition 
Group (GSIP) in January to dampen continued ethnically-
motivated civil violence.  The GSIP played an important 
reconciliation role by maintaining calm in formerly embattled 
neighborhoods.  Public security forces also integrated some 
members of the private militias into their formal ranks but 
have insufficient funds to continue this process.

The economy, which is heavily dependent upon petroleum revenues 
and external borrowing, continued its transition from socialism 
to a free market system.  Faced with low oil prices and an 
extremely high per capita debt, Congo began implementation of 
structural adjustment measures and free market economic 
policies.

The human rights situation remained poor.  Abuses perpetrated 
by the private militias included extrajudicial killing, 
kidnaping, torture, and looting, but their frequency decreased 
significantly after the January 30 signature of the peace 
accord.  Deplorable prison conditions, police brutality, 
societal discrimination against women, and exploitation of 
Pygmies in remote areas by Bantu farmers persisted.  Congo's 
strong worker rights provisions remained intact.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Supporters of the Government and the opposition were implicated 
in extrajudicial killings as were some police units--the 
so-called Aubevillois.  Estimates of the number killed from 
November 1993 to January 1994 range from several hundred to 
2,000.  Deaths due to continuing political violence after 
January 1994 are rumored at 10 to 30 persons, but accurate 
estimates are unavailable.  The Government was slow to take 
measures to end the violence and slow to identify and punish 
the perpetrators.  Victims appear to have been targeted 
principally on the basis of ethnic and political affiliation.  
Members of groups at both ends of the political spectrum purged 
ethnic majority neighborhoods of minority ethnic groups through 
the use of arson, looting, and assassination.  In an industrial 
strike in September, the army fired into a crowd of machete-
wielding protestors, killing one person and injuring several 
others.

     b.  Disappearance

There were numerous credible reports of kidnaping and 
disappearances, both political and for ransom, but no firm 
numerical estimates exist.  Leaders of both sides tacitly 
admitted, by participating in hostage exchange negotiations, 
that their partisans engaged in kidnaping.  Although 
substantially reduced, kidnaping remained a political weapon.  
The Government failed to investigate seriously those security 
service personnel or private militia members who were 
implicated in disappearances.

The easing of political tensions has allowed authorities to 
begin bringing criminals to justice without fear of accusations 
of political motive.  They investigated and arrested 
individuals of all ethnic origins who had used political 
conflict as a pretext for their activities.

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

The Constitution prohibits the use of torture and "cruel, 
inhuman, or degrading" treatment.  Nonetheless, there continue 
to be reliable reports of torture and rape by members of the 
security forces and the opposition militias.  Army, police, and 
customs officials continued their physical abuse of detainees, 
both to extract information and as punishment.  Some military 
and security force leaders tacitly condoned such beatings; they 
failed to punish offenders or to provide effective training in 
the lawful treatment of suspects.

Prison conditions are dire and life-threatening.  The death 
rate, and the incidence of disease and malnutrition are 
considerably higher than among the civilian population.  
Buildings are dilapidated, security is lax, and food and 
medical care are inadequate.  Most prisons, built during French 
colonial rule, were not designed for long-term incarceration.  
Dozens of prisoners are often kept in overcrowded cells for 
long periods of time, sleeping on the floor and subsisting on 
one meal per day.  Catholic missionaries work with prisoners to 
improve living conditions but with limited success.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or 
exile.  While the Code of Penal Procedure requires that all 
detainees be apprehended openly and have a lawyer present 
during initial questioning, police often ignored these 
requirements.  According to the Code, the Prosecutor's Office 
must issue these warrants and the authorities must bring 
detainees before a judge within 3 days and charge or release 
them within 4 months.  The authorities often fail to enforce 
these requirements as well.

Lawyers have free access to their imprisoned clients. Over half 
of all persons in custody are pretrial detainees.  The Ministry 
of Justice estimates that the average detention is less than 6 
months.  Although the Penal Code provides that defendants have 
the right to be represented by lawyers of their choice and the 
State will pay legal fees for the indigent, the authorities do 
not enforce this in practice.

From November 1993 to January 1994, partisans on all sides 
engaged in arbitrary arrests and kidnapings, often for ransom 
or use in hostage exchanges.  No reliable estimates of the 
number arbitrarily arrested and detained exist.  At year's end, 
the Government was not known to be holding any political 
detainees.

Political exile is not used.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The judicial system consists primarily of local courts, courts 
of appeal, and the Supreme Court.  In rural areas, traditional 
courts continued to handle many local disputes, especially 
property and probate cases.  Many domestic disputes are 
adjudicated under traditional law and within the extended 
family.

Some cases never reach the court system, however.  For example, 
it is common practice for citizens to beat thieves caught in 
the act, sometimes to death.  In general, defendants are tried 
in a public court of law presided over by a state-appointed 
magistrate.  The defense has access to, and the right to 
counter, prosecution evidence and testimony.  Defendants are 
presumed innocent and have the right to appeal.  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 
trials.

Supreme Court justices are appointed for life; lower court 
judges may serve until age 65.  There were no known cases of 
termination or transfer of a judge for political reasons.  At 
year's end, the Government was not known to be holding any 
political prisoners.

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

The Constitution protects the privacy of homes as well as 
correspondence and telecommunications.  Official searches of 
private properties and communications require a warrant, but in 
practice warrants are not uniformly served.  There is 
widespread belief that the Government continues to tap 
telephones.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press.

The Constitution provides for freedom of expression and calls 
for the establishment of a special council to safeguard speech 
and press freedoms.  Despite constitutional and judicial 
protections, the media enjoy only limited freedom.  People talk 
openly and opposition newspapers circulate freely, but the 
Government retains control over broadcast media.  Censorship 
declined from 1993, but the state media still practiced it in 
1994.  Despite the State's monopoly on local radio and 
television, which are the principal means of public 
communication, it increased opposition journalists' access to 
radio and television and permitted them to broadcast political 
debates.

In March the Government attempted to prohibit state-employed 
journalists from serving as stringers for international news 
agencies, but suspended its efforts after journalists 
protested.  Subsequent to the expulsion of a Radio France 
International (RFI) correspondent in late 1993, the Government 
negotiated the rebroadcast from Brazzaville of two foreign 
stations, including RFI.

In June the Government detained a state-employed journalist for 
2 days following an interview with former President and 
opposition leader Denis Sassou-Nguesso.  The Government 
officially reprimanded the journalist for failing to seek 
approval to take state equipment to the remote site of the 
interview.  In a similar case in November, the Government 
suspended a journalist for 3 weeks for failing to obtain prior 
permission to interview an opposition party leader on 
television.  Incidents of this nature are, however, uncommon.

There were no known abridgements of academic freedom.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  In practice, any group wishing to hold a public 
assembly must inform the Minister of Interior, who reserves the 
right to forbid assemblies which in the Government's view 
threaten public order.  The Minister of Interior, claiming a 
threat to public order, denied one of several requests by 
students seeking to protest the nonpayment of scholarships.  
There are no restrictions on trade associations or professional 
bodies, and affiliation with international bodies is permitted.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution forbids discrimination based on religious 
beliefs.  In practice, people are free to join any church and 
practice any religion.

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

The Constitution provides for the right of all citizens to 
circulate freely within Congo, and it specifically prohibits 
roadblocks and barricades.  Nonetheless, soldiers and political 
militia hindered free movement with barricades in early 1994.

The National Conference Charter of Rights gives all citizens 
the right to travel abroad and to return.  At year's end Congo 
hosted some 13,500 refugees, the majority of whom were Angolans 
from the Cabinda enclave.  Refugees are registered with the 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United 
Nations Development Program, and the Government, and are 
allowed to work and to establish residency.  They may apply for 
citizenship after 10 years of continuous residence.  There were 
no known cases of forced repatriation or deportation of 
refugees.

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

The President and the National Assembly were elected in 1992 
and 1993, respectively.  The opposition disputed the 
legislative elections, claiming the results were fraudulent.  
An international panel of jurists rejected all but 9 of 58 
accusations of fraud.  Six of the nine fraudulently elected 
deputies were from the opposition parties, while three were 
members of the Presidential Movement.  Despite President 
Lissouba's victory in 1992 and his coalition's victory in the 
1993 legislative elections, the opposition continued to resist 
his rule and tried to wrest power from him through political 
maneuvers and armed resistance until the signature of the 
January 1994 peace accord.

The Constitution divides power between the Presidency and a 
Government headed by a Prime Minister and formed with the 
approval of the National Assembly.  The Constitution provides 
for 5-year terms of office for the President and National 
Assembly Deputies, all elected by universal suffrage, and 6- 
year terms for Senators, who are chosen by local councils.  
International monitors have observed the last several rounds of 
elections and have found them to be free and fair.

The Lissouba Government sought to create a representative 
Government by appointing members of each geographical region in 
the Cabinet.  However, members of the President's ethnic group 
occupy the key ministerial portfolios.  Women occupy 2 of the 
28 Cabinet posts.  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, 
including the National Committee on Human Rights, the Congolese 
Human Rights League, and Committee of the Congolese Association 
of Women Lawyers.  All freely criticize government human rights 
violations as well as abusive and discriminatory aspects of 
some traditional local customs.

The Government permits international nongovernmental 
organizations to operate freely.

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

The Constitution specifically forbids such discrimination, but 
it persists in fact, particularly against Pygmies and women.

     Women

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex 
and specifically endorses the right of women to earn equal pay 
for equal work, discrimination against women is widespread.  
Inequities persist in salaries, employment opportunities, and 
access to education.

While traditional inheritance customs favor maternal links, 
marriage and family laws overtly discriminate against women.  
For example, adultery is illegal for women but not for men.  
Polygyny is legal; polyandry is not.  Women in rural areas are 
especially disadvantaged in terms of education and wage 
employment and are confined largely to family farm work, petty 
commerce, and childrearing responsibilities.  Nonetheless, 
educated women are making some limited progress in professional 
employment.

Violence against women occurs frequently.  Wife beating is a 
continuing abuse, but cases are usually handled within the 
extended family; police rarely intervene in domestic disputes.  
Only in extreme instances of abuse do courts prosecute these 
cases.  The general population and the media largely ignore the 
issue of violence against women.

     Children

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

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution provides the same rights for Pygmies, an 
ethnic minority numbering approximately 7,000 and living 
primarily in the northern forest regions, as it does for other 
citizens.  In practice--in a society in which Bantu Congolese 
predominate in every respect--they do not enjoy equal 
treatment.  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 has its roots in the ancestral tradition of Pygmy 
slavery maintained by Bantus.  In the past, Pygmies were denied 
access to public education, health, and other basic services, 
and the right to own property.  Pygmies have traditionally been 
excluded from the political process, and they have little 
ability to influence government decisions affecting their 
interests.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution provides the disabled "specific measures of 
protection in relation to their needs."  In practice this means 
very little, although the Government has provided special 
education to some disabled students and hand-powered tricycles 
to some polio victims.  The Ministry charged with the welfare 
of the disabled is hampered by severe financial constraints.  
The country has not implemented laws mandating access for 
people with disabilities.

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.  Nearly all workers in the formal 
(wage) sector are union members, and unions have made efforts 
to organize informal sectors such as agriculture and retail.

Unions are free to join or form new federations or 
confederations.  The formerly monolithic Congolese Trade Union 
Confederation (CSC) fractured into six independent union 
confederations in 1994; the State has formally recognized all 
of them.  They are dependent on the voluntary contributions of 
their membership.  There are some links between the Government 
and union leadership.  The Secretary-General of the CSC is a 
member of the National Assembly, and the head of the Union 
Confederation of Congolese Workers (CSTC), Congo's second 
largest union, is serving in the office of the mayor of 
Brazzaville.

Unions are free to strike but must file a letter of intent with 
the Ministry of Labor beforehand, thereby starting a process of 
arbitration.  In theory, a strike may not take place until 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 include the strike date, 
at which time the strike may legally begin even if arbitration 
is not complete.  Employers have the right to fire workers if 
they give no notification in advance of a strike.  In practice, 
the Ministry seldom enforces this aspect of the Labor Code, and 
workers have initiated many strikes without prior attempts to 
resolve disputes through arbitration.

In 1994 the CSTC called three general strikes for immediate 
payment of salary arrears by the State.  The first strike was 
postponed by the union leadership, and the second failed to 
generate support.  The Government responded to most union 
demands before the third had begun.  The Government reportedly 
threatened to keep lists of government employees who failed to 
report for work, implicitly for use in civil service work force 
reduction.

In September, sugar factory workers went on strike for 
standardization of their salaries and allowances, a reduction 
in workload, and free medical treatment.  The Army shot into a 
crown of machete-wielding protesters, killing one person and 
injuring several others (see Section 1.a.).

Unions are free to affiliate with international trade unions.  
Some trade unions have signed cooperative accords with other 
African, European, and American trade union organizations.  
Although the CSC has not formally disaffiliated from the once 
Communist-dominated 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

With union attention absorbed by current economic problems and 
the Government in the midst of structural adjustment efforts, 
the National Assembly has only initiated deliberations to 
revise the Labor Code.  In the past many benefits were legally 
mandated, and industry-specific wage scales ("Conventions") 
were determined by negotiated agreement between union 
representatives, employers, the Ministry of Labor, and the 
CSC.  At present, unions may negotiate freely, either 
independently or in cooperation with other unions, federations, 
or confederations.

Under the Constitution employers are prohibited from 
discriminating against employees who exercise their 
Constitutional right to organize or join a union.  There were 
no reported firings for union activities.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, and there was no 
evidence of its practice in the formal economy.  There were, 
however, allegations that Pygmies experienced exploitation (see 
Section 5).

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution prohibits children under the age of 16 from 
working.  The Ministry of Labor is responsible for enforcing 
child labor laws but concentrated its efforts on the formal 
wage sector.  Young children continued to work on small family 
subsistence farms in rural areas and in the informal sector in 
cities without government intervention.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government sets a minimum wage of about $44 (CFA 23,500) 
per month, a level which the Government claims allows for 
"human dignity."  However, high urban prices and dependent 
extended families oblige many workers to seek out opportunities 
beyond their main employment and practice subsistence 
agriculture.  In 1994 this was particularly true for government 
workers, who were forced to cope with salary backlogs of 
several months.  In those trades still subject to "Conventions" 
(see Section 6.b.), the negotiated minimum wages were without 
exception considerably higher than the legal minimum.

The Constitution provides for not only reasonable pay, but also 
paid holidays, periodic paid vacations, and legal limits on 
allowable hours of work.  The Labor Code stipulates that 
overtime must be paid for all work in excess of 40 hours per 
week and 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 without jeopardy to 
continued employment, but unions were generally vigilant in 
calling attention to such situations.

(###)

[end of document]

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