NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) -- The United Nations (UN) on Thursday expressed alarm after receiving reports of several human rights violations during the pre-electoral period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The organization warned that such incidents could threaten the democratic process and result in further post-electoral violence as the DRC's presidential and parliamentary polls are slated for November 28, which will mark the country's second democratic elections since its independence in 1960.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO) released a detailed report that documents 188 violations apparently linked to the electoral process that occurred between November 1, 2010 and September 30 of this year.
According to the report, the violations most frequently infringed individuals' freedom of expression, the right to physical integrity and the right to liberty and security of the person, as well as the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. There have also been instances of violence and disturbance of public order committed by supporters of political parties.
While the report is not an exhaustive account of human rights violations and acts of violence perpetrated, the violations documented by the UN include incidents such as death threats against human rights defenders for holding a press conference in which they denounced reforms and the beating or arrests of civilians for merely wearing the T-shirts of opposition parties.
"Taking into account the violent events following the 2006 poll, the 2011 elections will constitute an important challenge for human rights, security and the consolidation of democracy in the country," the report stated.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay hoped for peaceful, free and fair elections, and a smooth exercise of the Congolese people's fundamental right to vote
"The kind of intimidation, threats, incitement, arbitrary arrests and violence that we have documented is unacceptable and has a chilling effect on voters," Pillay said. "The Government and leaders of political parties must make it clear that there is to be zero tolerance against any such actions which seriously limit the exercise of the right to vote."
Among other reported violations were repeated summons to the National Intelligence Agency, the beating of a civilian for asking an "unpatriotic" question and the arrest and ill-treatment of four individuals for discussing politics in a barbershop.
The report also stated that elements of the Congolese National Police or of the National Intelligence Services were involved in most of the violations committed.
In addition, the report said that political parties have been targeted and their members detained, ill-treated and threatened. It expressed particular concern for the situation in the country's east.
The UN report also urged the Congolese Government, political parties, and the international community to intensify cooperation with civil society, to issue public messages calling for state agents and promote peaceful participation in the electoral process. It also called on supporters, particularly the youth, to refrain from violence and to respect national laws and the public order.
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