DR Congo Detention Centre Deaths Rising: Bex Dunn

In the last week we have learned that the Democratic Republic of Congo has seen the number of people dying in its detention centres double in 2012 and we have also learnt that it is currently at the bottom of the pile in terms of the UN’s annual Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI considers factors such as life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and GDP and ranks states dependent on these factors.

It seems that despite the effort going into the Democratic Republic of Congo something is still hugely wrong. The number of people that have died in detention centres numbered 101 in 2012 which is unbelievable. 24 of these deaths have been reported as caused by torture or ill-treatment which raises significant questions over the actions of the Congolese government. There should not be a single case of torture that causes death; there should be no torture at all. Although there are arguments to say that torture should be acceptable, I doubt this was the case in many of these deaths. The arguments for torture claim that in the event that valuable information could be acquired that could save the lives of numerous civilians in imminent danger for example if there was a planned terrorist attack then it should be sanctioned.

The remainder of the number of deaths were caused by a combination of poor conditions in the centres, overcrowding, malnutrition, limited access to health care and lack of resources. These are all things that can be addressed and remedied. MONUSCO, the UN mission to the DRC is pushing for the government to remedy the situation and improve the conditions within prisons. They are also supporting the government’s decision to suspend high ranking officials that are suspected of corruption.

There is a lot of work that needs to be done in the DRC which could include increased monitoring of detention centre facilities to ensure there are no further cases of torture or ill-treatment. If the UN is to continue its work in the DRC it also needs to do more to restrain the government and protect not only the rights of civilians but also the basic rights of those in prison. Our responsibility to assist those in danger does not stop once they are detained.

Bex Dunn