"Pivotal moment" for Democratic Republic of the Congo: Human Rights chief

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Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is at a "pivotal moment" when it could "stumble into increasing repression".

That's the warning from UN Human Rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, speaking to reporters at the end of his mission to the central African country on Thursday.

He said important advances had been made in some areas of human rights, but unless "civil and political rights" were bolstered, there could be a "serious crisis".

Matthew Wells has more.

High Commissioner Zeid said improvements in cases of sexual violence involving security forces had been made, and he praised President Kabila's "personal commitment" on the issue.

He also commended the government's efforts in bringing several of its peacekeepers to trial, who had been accused of sexual abuse, serving in the Central African Republic.

But he said there was "rising tension" in the country as electoral deadlines approached, which had led to clear violations of citizen's rights across the DRC, notably in freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

"No crisis is inevitable if the relevant stakeholders are working together, and working with the international community. And whatever tensions we see, we believe can be dealt with through a strict adherence to human rights obligations and standards."

Zeid said that he would be submitting a list of people who his office believed were being unjustly detained, and the government had agreed to work with the UN to resolve the issue.

He added that other commitments had been made by ministers and state actors to improve human rights conditions, but the key test would be to see if changes were actually being made "on the ground".

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1'11"

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