Coalition for Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations

News Release

Alert: Death Threats Made Against Congolese Women's Rights Activist

The Coalition for Women?s Human Rights in Conflict Situations, Rights & Democracy, Québec Native Women, Fédération des femmes du Québec, Regroupement québécois des centres d?aide et de lutte contre les agressions à caractère sexuel (CALACS), Table de concertation des Grands Lacs, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, Regroupement provincial des maisons d'hébergement et de transition pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale and Association Québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI)

Call on the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), local authorities and United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUC) to ensure the protection of Julienne Lusenge, an activist committed to women?s rights and the struggle against sexual violence, and to prosecute those who have made threats against her.

While on a mission in Europe organized by Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) to promote the struggle against impunity and sexual violence in the DRC, Julienne Lusenge, the coordinator of Solidarité féminine pour la paix et le développement intégral (SOFEPADI), was informed that she had been the target of death threats on March 31, 2008.

Two unidentified individuals appeared at the home of one of her colleagues and demanded Ms Lusenge?s home address. When she refused, they responded: ?If you do not open the door, you will leave Beni the way you left Bunia. Furthermore, it will be you who opens Julienne?s door for us.? These threats allude to Ms Lusenge?s flight in October 2002 from Bunia as a result of harassment from militias that she had criticized, particularly for their acts of violence against women.

The threats made against human rights activists and, more specifically, women?s rights activists are particularly serious and indicative of the climate of impunity and violence that reigns in the Eastern DRC. Insecurity created by the proliferation of armed groups that continue to operate beyond the reach of State and MONUC control is compounded by the muzzling of activists by government representatives and high-ranking officials.

These situations must be denounced in the strongest possible terms. They violate international law as well as international and regional commitments undertaken by the DRC. Not only do they violate women?s dignity, they undermine the hope and capacity of Congolese society to put an end to sexual violence.

Freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and the right to physical integrity must be ensured by government authorities in order to maintain a functioning, strong and active civil society capable of participating in building peace and democracy.

Consequently, signatory human rights organizations have joined forces to:

DENOUNCE the climate of insecurity in which human rights activists operate in the DRC and especially those struggling against women?s sexual violence;

URGENTLY CALL ON the Government of the DRC and the appropriate authorities to take all necessary steps to protect human rights activists and their families from all acts of retaliation, physical attack, intimidation and threats;

DEMAND that the police and magistrature investigate and prosecute those responsible for the threats against Julienne Lusenge, and ensure the protection of her family and work colleagues at SOFEPADI in Beni and Bunia;

CALL ON representatives of the UN and regional organizations concerned about these violations to take the necessary measures to protect human rights activists and to work with national authorities and civil society to reinforce the rule of law.

Signatory organizations


Montréal, Wednesday, April 9, 2008

For more information, visit

Media Relations:

Louis Moubarak at Rights & Democracy, 514-283-6073 ext. 261.

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