Death threats made against Congolese Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Denis Mukwege has been condemned by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who also called for his protection.
In a statement, Ms. Bachelet said Dr. Mukwege’s life “seems to be at serious risk”, before welcoming President Felix Tshisekedi’s public commitment to ensure his security.
“Dr. Mukwege is a true hero – determined, courageous and extremely effective,” the UN rights chief insisted.
Dr. Mukwege is best known for helping thousands of women victims of sexual violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
For decades, he has also called for perpetrators to be brought to justice and advocated against the use of rape as a weapon of war.
He survived an assassination attempt at his home in 2012.
“For years, he helped thousands of gravely injured and traumatized women when there was nobody else to take care of them,” Bachelet said.
In Geneva, spokesperson for the UN rights chief, Rupert Colville, said that the recent surge of threats against him had been conveyed via social media and in phone calls to him and his family.
These were likely connected with Dr. Mukwege’s condemnation of rights abuses linked to longstanding violence in the highlands of South Kivu, where mainly Banyamulenge herders have been involved in conflict against the Babembe, Bafuliru, and Banyindu communities.
This fighting has been characterized by the involvement of multiple armed groups, “both local and foreign”, Mr. Colville said.
“The threats appear to be more linked to his advocacy, you know his very robust positions taken on accountability, on the protection of women, as a result of what he’s seen in decades in hospital,” he said.
Dr. Mukwege, a surgeon and gynaecologist,was awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize after decades of work at Panzi hospital in Bukavu – which he founded – helping women who’d endured serious sexual abuse.
He was also a firm supporter of a 2010 report by the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, which chronicled hundreds of serious human rights violations and abuses in the eastern DRC between 1993 and 2003, in many cases identifying the groups and entities allegedly responsible for perpetrating the crimes.
Ms. Bachelet meanwhile, called for an effective, prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats made against Dr. Mukwege.
“It is essential those responsible are brought to justice and that the truth is known, both as a means to protect Dr. Mukwege’s life, but also as a deterrent to others who attack, threaten or intimidate medical workers and human rights defenders who, like him, work for the benefit of the Congolese people, often in exceptionally difficult circumstances,” she maintained.
The UN rights chief also underscored the need for all relevant authorities to condemn the threats. (Source: UN News)