Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said Friday that recent death threats targeting Dr. Denis Mukwege, a human rights defender and 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Democratic Republic of Congo, are causing concern for his safety and must be taken seriously.
Mukwege, founder of the Panzi hospital in Bukavu, has seen a surge of threats by telephone and on social media since he publicly condemned the continued killing of civilians in conflict zones in the country’s east. He also stressed the need to hold accountable those who are responsible for human rights violations and abuses.
“Dr. Mukwege is a true hero – determined, courageous and extremely effective,” said Bachelet. “For years, he helped thousands of gravely injured and traumatized women when there was nobody else to take care of them, and at the same time he did a great deal to publicize their plight and stimulate others to try to grapple with the uncontrolled epidemic of sexual violence in the eastern DRC.”
Mukwege has received death threats in the past and survived a 2012 assassination attempt, in which he was forced to flee the country for a time under very similar circumstances: he had delivered a UN speech that condemned the long Congolese conflict in 2012 too, and quickly became a target. Now that’s happening again.
“His life seems to be at serious risk,” Bachelet said. “I welcome the public commitment of President Tshisekedi to ensure his security, and I hope that Denis Mukwege and his team will be provided with comprehensive protection by the Congolese authorities so that the indispensable work they perform day in, day out, at Panzi hospital can be guaranteed.”
Image: Panzi Foundation file