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WCC urges protecting the life of Dr Denis Mukwege in Democratic Republic of the Congo

WCC urges protecting the life of Dr Denis Mukwege in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Dr Denis Mukwege, physician director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, a Nobel laureate. Photo: Albin Hillert/LWF

07 September 2020

After hearing about death threats against Nobel laureate Dr Denis Mukwege, physician director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Council of Churches (WCC) urged UN officials to call upon the government to ensure the protection of the life of Mukwege.

In a letter, Peter Prove, director of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, said church partners had informed the WCC about the threats on Mukwege’s life.

“These threats have included threatening remarks about assassination and acts of intimidation,” wrote Prove. Mukwege is also president of the Panzi Foundation.

An attempt on the life of Dr Mukwege was made in 2012, and resulted in him leaving the country for several months.

Prove wrote that the WCC remains “concerned for the safety and wellbeing” of Mukwege, and urgently called upon the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo “to ensure the protection of the life” of Mukwege and “to investigate the threats that have been made against him.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on 28 August also expressed deep concern over the recent death threats directed at the Congolese human rights defender.

Mukwege founded the Panzi Hospital, and has helped thousands of women victims of sexual and gender-based violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. “He has also been a determined advocate against the use of rape as a weapon of war, and for increased protection of women,” said Bachelet.

Mukwege has also been a strong and consistent voice calling for those responsible for sexual violence to be brought to justice.

“He has received deaths threats in the past and survived a major assassination attempt in October 2012,” said Bachelet. “His life seems to be at serious risk.”

She also called for an effective, prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the threats made against him.

The UN Human Rights chief underscored the need for all relevant authorities to openly condemn the threats. And, in order to tackle the problem in the longer term, she urged the Congolese authorities to adopt the draft law on the protection and regulation of the activity of human rights defenders in a form that is fully consistent with international standards.

Read the full letter of appeal to the UN Special Rapporteurs