afrol News, 16 January - The new head of the UN human rights agency, Sergio Vieira de Mello, on his regional roundtrip stated that the post-war human rights progresses made in Angola should serve as an example for the government of Congo Kinshasa (DRC). Mr Vieira de Mello in particular drew attention to the importance of human rights in achieving national reconciliation.
The UN top human rights official currently is travelling in central Africa, passing through Congo Kinshasa and Angola, to assess the humanitarian, human rights and political situation in the region. In Kinshasa, where he met with President Joseph Kabila, Mr Vieira de Mello expressed his concern about the fate of 30 people recently sentenced to death by a military court on charges that they were involved in the assassination of the previous President, Laurent-Desiré Kabila.
During his three-day stint in Congo earlier in the week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the leadership in Kisangani and Kinshasa to "study the progress made in Angola" as they moved to consolidate peace in their own country - namely that ending conflict leads to obvious improvements in human rights. "War is the cause of all the human rights violations in the DRC," he said, "and [implementing] the Pretoria Agreement is the main condition for significantly improving the civilian, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Congolese people."
Arriving in Angola, however, the UN official was generous with his compliments. With the end of fighting and the signing of a ceasefire accord between the government and the UNITA rebels, Angola had "already overcome the most severe impediments to the protection and promotion of human rights in the country," Mr Vieira de Mello said shortly after arriving in Luanda.
The High Commissioner, currently in Angola for three days of meetings with senior government officials, told reporters yesterday that now it was necessary for the people of the country to "consolidate this great progress" and to, above all, work together to overcome the "immense and terrible" legacy of decades of war.
- That is why we are here, Mr Vieira de Mello said, "to express our solidarity with the Government and people of Angola and to discuss with civil society what else we can do to improve humanitarian conditions in all regions of the country and in all categories of the population." During his stay, he is scheduled to meet with President José Eduardo dos Santos to discuss the current peace process and also draw attention to the importance of human rights in achieving national reconciliation.
Admitting that broad, speedy reconciliation was a "monumental task," the High Commissioner highlighted two priorities for the Angolan government and the international community - providing solutions for millions that had been displaced and facilitating demobilization for ex-combatants and former troops of the UNITA. "I came to see what our High Commission and our other partners can modestly contribute to the progress already made," he added.
Recalling his tenure as the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and head of the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET), Mr Vieira de Mello said it was no coincidence that he chose to visit Angola. Following East Timor's declaration of independence last year, it seemed important, he said, to show support for Angola, another nation "entering a new phase in its history" on his first official visit as the UN's top human rights official.
Meanwhile, back in Geneva, Mr Vieira de Mello's Commission on Human Rights underlined the agency's concerns over the Kinshasa government. In a joint statement, UN Special Rapporteurs Asma Jahangir, who deals with summary or arbitrary execution, and Iulia Antoanella Motoc, who deals with the Congo, expressed their "serious concern" that the trials conducted by the military tribunal that handed down the sentences were "seriously flawed and unfair." They were also concerned by reports that 15 people had been executed recently following a military tribunal judgment.
The two experts urged the government in Kinshasa, and in particular President Kabila, to make certain international safeguards and restrictions on capitol punishment are in place, and to reinstate the country's moratorium on executions, which was lifted on 23 September 2002.
Sources: Based on UN,
Amnesty and afrol archives