Republic of the Congo

Executive Summary

The Republic of the Congo is a presidential republic in which the constitution vests most decision-making authority and political power in the president and prime minister. In 2015 the country adopted a new constitution that extends the maximum number of presidential terms and years to three terms of five years and provides complete immunity to former presidents. In March the Constitutional Court proclaimed the incumbent, Denis Sassou Nguesso, the winner of the March 21 presidential election, despite opposition and international criticism of electoral irregularities. The government last held legislative and local elections in 2017, with legislative election irregularities sufficient to restrict the ability of citizens to choose their government. While the country has a multiparty political system, members of the president’s Congolese Labor Party and its allies retained 68 percent of legislative seats, and Congolese Labor Party members occupied almost all senior government positions.

National police, gendarmes, and the military have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order within the country. The national police maintain internal security and report to the Ministry of Interior. The gendarmerie reports to the Ministry of Defense and conducts domestic paramilitary and law enforcement activities. The army, navy, and air force, which also report to the Ministry of Defense also conduct limited domestic security activities. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that police and gendarmes committed some abuses.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest or detention; political prisoners or detainees; serious problems with the independence of the judiciary; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists and censorship; serious restrictions on internet freedom; substantial interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; inability of citizens to change their government peacefully through free and fair elections; serious and unreasonable restrictions on political participation; serious government corruption; serious government restrictions on or harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including but not limited to domestic and intimate-partner violence; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting indigenous people; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons.

The government took limited steps to prosecute or punish officials who committed human rights abuses or acts of corruption, and official impunity was a problem.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were reports on social media of the government or its agents committing arbitrary or unlawful killings; however, for such reports (besides those specified below), no independent confirmation was possible, leading to uncertainty regarding the frequency of the incidents and the number of persons arbitrarily deprived of life. In some cases the Ministry of Justice coordinated with the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense to investigate security force involvement in the deaths of citizens and pursued prosecution.

Human rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) continued to report deaths resulting from abuse in prisons and pretrial detention centers (see also section 1.c.).

In August a young woman, Nancy Adzouana, allegedly died while under police custody in the southern town of Dolisie due to injuries sustained from security forces. Citizens in Dolisie demonstrated by burning tires and blocking the main road in town for a day before military forces were called into the town to maintain order. At year’s end the Ministry of Justice had not announced any investigation into the death nor any disciplinary actions.

In November local NGOs through international media alleged the death of six individuals while in Brazzaville’s central prison in July. After the announcement, the government publicly acknowledged the deaths were accidental in relation to overcrowding. NGOs conducted an independent autopsy, naming blunt-force trauma as the cause of death. Despite continued criticism from the NGOs, the government had yet to publish a report of the investigation by year’s end.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The constitution prohibits torture, and the law contains a general prohibition against assault and battery, but there is no legal framework specifically banning torture. There were reports on social media of the government or its agents meting out cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment to detainees or convicts. No independent confirmation was possible, leading to uncertainty regarding the frequency of the incidents and the number of persons abused.

According to the Conduct in UN Field Missions online portal, there were a total of 14 open allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by the country’s peacekeepers deployed to UN peacekeeping missions, including three allegations received during the year, one received in 2020, two received in 2019, two received in 2018, and six received in 2016. Eight cases allegedly involved the rape of a child, including one alleged rape of a child by four peacekeepers, and two cases allegedly involved exploitative relationships with an adult. As of October the government had not reported accountability measures taken for any open allegations.

The Congolese Armed Forces (FAC) did not maintain a separate military justice system. In most cases the military handled allegations of abuse by soldiers outside the country through administrative procedures, which often included lengthy detentions. The FAC reported that all personnel involved in allegations in the UN peacekeeping deployments in the Central African Republic received legal or administrative discipline in line with these administrative procedures.

Officials took steps to prosecute or punish members of the security forces who acted with impunity. Abuses are investigated by the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Justice.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and life threatening due to inadequate sanitary conditions, gross overcrowding, and a severe deficit of medical and psychological care.

Physical Conditions: The Brazzaville Prison, built in 1943 to accommodate 150 inmates, held more than five times its designed capacity, including women and minors. The Pointe-Noire Prison, built in 1934 to hold 75 inmates, held more than six times its designed capacity. In addition to these official prisons, the government’s intelligence and security services operated detention centers and security prisons that were inaccessible for inspection.

Authorities generally maintained separate areas within facilities for minors, women, and men in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. In Brazzaville, while these areas were separate, they were sometimes easily accessible with no locked entryways. In the other 10 prisons throughout the country, authorities sometimes held juvenile detainees with adult prisoners.

Prison conditions for women were generally better than those for men. There was less crowding in women’s cells. Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners. In Brazzaville authorities confined and treated prisoners with illnesses in one area but allowed them to interact with other inmates.

In the Brazzaville Prison, conditions for wealthy or well connected prisoners generally were better than conditions for others.

There were a few reported deaths resulting from abuse, neglect, and overcrowding in prisons and pretrial detention centers. A local NGO reported that figures on the number and causes of death while in custody were unavailable.

In Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, authorities equipped the prisons with some mattresses and prisoner uniforms. Most inmates, however, slept on the floor on cardboard in small, overcrowded cells that exposed them to disease. The prisons lacked drainage and ventilation, and they had poorly maintained lighting with wiring protruding from the walls. Local NGOs commented that the cells were infested with insects and rats. Basic and emergency medical care was limited. Medical personnel at the Brazzaville Prison cited tuberculosis, dysentery, malaria, and HIV and AIDS as the most common maladies affecting prisoners. Authorities did not provide specialized medical care to prisoners with HIV and AIDS, nor were HIV tests available in prisons. Authorities took pregnant women to hospitals to give birth, and authorities sometimes allowed them to breastfeed their infants in prison. Access to social services personnel was severely limited due to insufficient staffing, overcrowding, and stigmatization of those with mental health problems. Prison authorities permitted outdoor exercise intermittently.

Prison inmates reportedly received, on average, two daily meals consisting of rice, bread, and fish or meat. The food provided in prisons did not meet minimum caloric or nutrition requirements; however, prison authorities usually permitted inmates’ families to supply them with additional food. Authorities permitted women to cook over small fires in a shared recreational space. The Pointe-Noire Prison occasionally had running water. All the prisons supplied potable water to inmates in buckets. The government evacuated some prisoners to military hospitals when care was urgent and the prisoner was well connected.

Administration: Prison rules provide for prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship, but officials did not respect this right. Authorities did not investigate credible allegations of inhuman conditions brought to them by NGOs and detainees’ families. Prisoners had weekly access to Christian religious services only.

Access to prisoners generally required a communication permit from a judge. The permit allowed visitors to spend five to 15 minutes with a prisoner, although authorities usually did not strictly enforce this limit. In most cases visits took place in either a crowded open area or a small room with one extended table where approximately 10 detainees sat at a time. A new permit is technically required for each visit, but families were often able to return for multiple visits on one permit. Since many prisoners’ families lived far away, visits were infrequent because of the financial hardship of travel and COVID-19 preventative measures.

Independent Monitoring: The government provided domestic human rights groups with limited access to prisons and detention centers. Observers generally considered the primary local NGO focused on prison conditions independent; authorities, however, denied it access to the interior of several prisons on multiple occasions.

Other human rights NGOs that monitored detention conditions requested letters of permission from the Ministry of Justice to visit prisons. Their repeated requests went unanswered.

Representatives of religiously affiliated charitable organizations visited prisons and detention centers for charitable work and religious counseling.

Authorities granted diplomatic missions access to both prisons and police jails to provide consular assistance to their citizens.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, but local NGOs reported arbitrary arrest continued to be a problem. The constitution and law provide detainees the right to challenge the legal basis of their detention before a competent judge or authority, but the government did not observe the law regularly.

Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees

The constitution and law require that a duly authorized official issue warrants before officers make an arrest, that a person be apprehended openly, that a lawyer be present during initial questioning, and that detainees be brought before a judge within three days and either charged or released within four months. The government regularly violated these provisions. There is a bail system, but with 70 percent of the population living in poverty, most detainees could not afford to post bail. There is an option for provisional release, but officials usually denied these requests. Authorities sometimes informed detainees of charges against them at the time of arrest, but the filing of formal charges often took more than one week. There were reports authorities arrested detainees secretly and without judicial authorization and sometimes detained suspects incommunicado or put them under de facto house arrest. Police at times held persons for six months or longer before filing charges. Observers attributed most administrative delays to lack of staff in the Ministry of Justice and the court system. Family members sometimes received prompt access to detainees but often only after payment of bribes. The law requires authorities to provide lawyers at government expense to indigent detainees facing criminal charges, but this regularly did not occur.

The law states authorities may hold a detainee for a maximum of 48 to 72 hours in a police jail before an attorney general reviews the case. Thereafter, authorities must decide to release or to transfer the individual to a prison for pretrial detention. Authorities generally did not observe the 72-hour maximum and frequently held detainees for several weeks before an attorney general freed or transferred them to a prison to await trial. The law states a defendant or accused person may apply for provisional release at any point during his or her detention, from either an investigating judge or a trial court, depending on the type of case. The law states that provisional release should generally be granted, provided the judicial investigation is sufficiently advanced and the accused does not pose a risk of bribing witnesses or a threat to public order. This provision of the law was not respected.

Arbitrary Arrest: Reports suggested arbitrary and false arrests continued to occur (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

Pretrial Detention: Under the law the four-month pretrial detention period is extendable for two additional months with judicial approval. The law is not clear whether the two-month extension is renewable; however, judges often renewed the two-month extension period. Between 60 and 75 percent of detainees in prison were pretrial detainees. Prison authorities stated the average pretrial detention for nonfelony cases lasted one to three months and for felony cases at least 12 months. Human rights activists, however, stated the average was much longer for felony cases, commonly exceeding a year, and sometimes exceeding the maximum sentence for the alleged crime.

Lengthy pretrial detentions were due to the judicial system’s lack of capacity and, according to observers, a lack of political will to address the problem. The law defines three levels of crime: misdemeanors (punishable by less than one year in prison), delicts (punishable by one to five years in prison), and felonies (punishable by more than five years in prison). Criminal courts try misdemeanor and delict cases regularly. The judicial system, however, suffered from a serious backlog of felony cases. By law criminal courts must hear felony cases four times per year, but the government held only three criminal sessions in each of the five appeals courts and continued to hold persons accused of felonies in pretrial detention pending trial.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The constitution and law provide detainees the right to challenge the legal basis of their detention before a competent judge or other authority. If an investigating judge determines a detainee to be innocent, his or her release is promptly ordered, and he or she is entitled to file suit for compensation and damages with the Administrative Court. The government did observe this law in allowing released detainees the right to file a complaint. The government, however, rarely paid court-ordered compensation. Local human rights NGOs reported few occasions when officials denied detainees in Brazzaville the right to challenge their detention.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution and law provide the framework for an independent judiciary, but the government did not always respect judicial independence and employed political influence at times. Corruption also undermined judicial independence. International NGOs reported in 2019 the judiciary was dominated by allies of the president. Authorities generally abided by court orders; however, judges did not always issue direct court orders against accused authorities.

In rural areas traditional courts continued to handle many local disputes, particularly property, inheritance, and witchcraft cases, as well as domestic conflicts that could not be resolved within the family.

Trial Procedures

The constitution provides for the right to a fair trial presided over by an independent judiciary, but authorities did not always respect this right. Appeals courts existed in five departments – Brazzaville, Pointe-Noire, Dolisie, Owando, and Ouesso – and each had authority to try felony cases brought within its jurisdiction.

Under the law all defendants must be informed promptly and in detail of the charges, with free interpretation as necessary, and have a right to a fair and public trial in all criminal cases. Defendants in all criminal trials enjoy the presumption of innocence and have the right to be present at their trials and to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, although this did not always occur. The law obligates the government to provide legal assistance to any indigent defendant facing serious criminal charges, but such legal assistance was not always available because the government did not generally pay for public defenders.

Defendants have the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense. They also have the right to confront or question accusers and witnesses against them and present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. The government generally abided by these provisions, except in highly politicized cases.

Political Prisoners and Detainees

There were reports of political prisoners and detainees, although verifiable estimates of their total number were not available. While the government claimed there were no political prisoners, human rights groups and international observers maintained the government detained or imprisoned persons solely or chiefly because of their political beliefs. In 2020 the UN Mission in Brazzaville, based on information gathered from local NGOs, reported 24 persons in detention for political reasons. The government did not comment on the release of any prisoners.

Former presidential candidate Andre Okombi Salissa remained in prison as of October. In July 2020 the government transferred Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko, a former presidential candidate, to Turkey for one month of medical treatment. Upon his return, due to pending health conditions related to pneumonia, he was placed in the Brazzaville Military Hospital. In September he was transferred from the central military hospital to the central prison of Brazzaville, where he remained in detention. Mokoko and Okombi Salissa were serving sentences of 20 years at hard labor after being convicted of “undermining the internal security of the state” as well as “illegal possession of weapons and ammunition of war.”

The government arrested five political activists in March on allegations of posing a threat to national security: Landry Boumbeya, Alex Dzabana Ibacka, Rive Niaty, Christ Belvy Dongui, and Jean Louis Packat. Boumbeya, Dongui, and Dzabana Ibacka were released in July. Packat and Niaty remained in custody.

The government permitted limited access to those considered political prisoners by international human rights and humanitarian organizations and diplomatic missions.

Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies

Individuals may file lawsuits in court on civil matters related to human rights, including seeking damages for or cessation of a human rights abuse. The public, however, generally lacked confidence in the judicial system’s ability to address human rights problems.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution and law prohibit such actions; the government, however, did not always respect these prohibitions.

There were reports government authorities entered homes without judicial or other appropriate authorization, monitored private movements, and employed informer systems.

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties

a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media

The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression in all forms of communication and prohibits censorship, including for the press and other media, but the government did not always respect these rights.

Freedom of Expression: Individuals could criticize the government publicly or privately but feared reprisal. The constitution criminalizes speech that incites ethnic hatred, violence, or civil war and makes it punishable by no less than five years in prison. It also criminalizes any act or event that promotes racism or xenophobia.

Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: Independent media were active and expressed a wide variety of views with some restrictions. Press and media outlets regularly published criticism and satire of the government and senior officials. Most citizens obtained their news from local retransmission of international media and local radio or television stations. There was greater space in electronic media for open and critical discussion of government policy. International radio broadcasts and satellite television services were available and encouraged discussions of public policy.

Violence and Harassment: There were unconfirmed reports of direct and indirect intimidation of journalists by the government, including telephone calls from official and anonymous persons warning journalists and news outlets not to use footage of politically sensitive events or run certain stories.

Plainclothes policemen arrested editor in chief of the satirical newspaper Sel & Piment (Salt and Pepper) Raymond Malonga for refusing to appear in court to face charges of libel and defamation in February for alleging the wife of the head of the National Security Council used money from the National Treasury for personal use. Malonga was released in August and ordered to pay a fine of 30 million CFA francs ($54,500).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: Media outlets were required to register with the Superior Council for Liberty of Communication (CSLC), an official regulatory body. Media outlets that violated council regulations were subject to financial sanctions or temporary shutdown. The president appoints the director of the council.

Many journalists and editors at larger circulation media outlets practiced self-censorship and promoted the editorial views of media owners. Newspapers published open letters written by government opponents.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law provides for monetary penalties and suspension of a publication’s permission to print for defamation and incitement to violence. Authorities sometimes brought charges under these laws.

In October following the release of the “Pandora Papers” by the International Community of Investigative Journalists, which named a shell company held by President Sassou that had direct interest in a diamond mine, Minister of Communications Thierry Moungalla held multiple press conferences on national television stating, “the government of the Republic of Congo will never allow defamation of the president. All those who slander his reputation will be pursued to the utmost extent of the law.” The only newspaper to comment on the “Pandora Papers” was La Semaine Africaine, which by year’s end had yet to suffer any reprisals.

b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The government limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

The constitution and law provide for freedom of peaceful assembly. The government often did not respect this right.

The government required authorization from the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization and appropriate local officials for assemblies and demonstrations.

Two local NGOs were denied a permit to host a protest during the two weeks of the presidential campaign in March. The Ministry of Interior cited the physical security risk of participants as the reason for denial, noting that several political rallies occurred in spaces nearby the proposed march.

Freedom of Association

The constitution and law provide for freedom of association, and the government usually respected this right. Political, social, or economic groups or associations were required to register with the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization. Authorities sometimes rejected registration requests due to political influence. According to Freedom House and a local NGO, groups that spoke openly against the government encountered overt or veiled threats and found the registration process more time consuming than organizations less critical of the government.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport.

d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country

The constitution and law provide for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. The government generally respected these rights.

Foreign Travel: By law all citizens are eligible for a national passport. The government, however, lacked the capacity to produce passports in sufficient numbers to meet demand and prioritized providing passports to those individuals who could demonstrate imminent need to travel or who had strong government connections. Obtaining a passport was a time-consuming and difficult process for most persons.

e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons

UN and government officials reported 134,000 of the 300,000 estimated internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the Pool region during the 2016-17 conflict had returned to their homes and villages; the government promoted their safe and voluntary return. As of November the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported there were approximately 53,000 refugees and asylum seekers, primarily from the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who remained in cohabitation with Congolese populations in the northern part of the country. Anecdotal reports suggested that those who did not return had resettled voluntarily in other parts of the country. Other IDPs in the country included residents in areas affected by seasonal floods, who generally returned home when waters receded. The number of IDPs increased as flooding grew worse in recent years.

f. Protection of Refugees

The government cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of refugee status, and the government has a system for providing protection to refugees and asylum seekers. The National Refugee Assistance Committee (CNAR), a joint committee under the Ministry of Social Affairs and Humanitarian Action, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handled applications for refugee status. The CNAR received most of its operating budget from UNHCR.

Employment: The law does not address employment for refugees, but various government decrees prohibit foreigners, including refugees, from practicing small trade activities and working in the public-transportation sector.

Access to Basic Services: UNHCR-funded primary schooling was accessible to most refugees. Authorities limited access to secondary and vocational education for refugees. Some secondary education occurred at schools where refugees volunteered to teach or received payment from parents of refugee children.

Although refugees had equal access to community health centers and hospitals, there were reports of refugees receiving discriminatory treatment at some hospitals, including insults by medical personnel and long waiting times for treatment without regard to priority relative to their medical conditions.

Durable Solutions: Former Rwandan refugees could obtain resident status provided they had a valid Rwandan passport. Many Rwandans feared deportation if they received a passport, despite the assurances of local authorities and UNHCR this would not be the case. The government did not deport any former Rwandan refugees.

g. Stateless Persons

UNHCR reported that nearly 200,000 persons were at risk of statelessness in the country. Following the 2020 adoption of the 1954 and 1961 statelessness conventions, the government began issuing birth certificates with UNHCR support.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: During the March presidential elections international observers conducted two rounds of electoral observation: one for the advance vote of the security forces and the general public vote. Most observers reported polling stations and electoral officials conducted their business professionally and had the necessary tools. Civil society and political party representation inside polling stations was present and critical in dispute resolution. Observers, however, reported the heavy presence of security forces both inside and outside polling stations.

International electoral observers reported instances of fraud that benefitted candidate President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the ruling Congolese Labor Party (PCT) and its allies in both rounds. During the first round of voting, international observers witnessed ballot-box stuffing during and after the close of voting and before vote counts at voting stations in the Poto-Poto and Mpila neighborhoods of Brazzaville. During the public security forces vote, observers recorded testimony from soldiers who were ordered to vote multiple times at different polling stations at or near their place of employment. Observers in the Makelekele neighborhood observed a representative from the PCT paying persons to vote at a local voting booth, thus compromising the election results.

On presidential election day, international observers witnessed a number of irregularities including: incorrect voter lists; inconsistency in ballot boxes; polling officials allowing and encouraging multiple voting and instructing voters to vote only for the incumbent; polling stations opening late and without adequate supplies; polling and security officials refusing entry to accredited international observers; persons paying voters to vote for certain candidates; lack of uniform enforcement of voter identification requirements; polling officials, at separate locations, loyal to either the incumbent president or opposition candidates blocking entry to voters supporting opposing candidates; ruling party loyalists impersonating representatives of other candidates; polling officials not posting final vote tally sheets on the exterior wall of polling stations as required by law; and officials prohibiting observation at regional and national vote compilation centers.

Some opposition parties boycotted the election and the vote. In public statements Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, president of the Panafrican Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) announced that he and his party would not participate in the presidential elections because they “did not have the means nor the capacity to win the election.” In addition, former milia leader and head of the National Council of Republicans party, Frederic Bintsamou, commonly known as “Pastor Ntumi,” announced his party would voluntarily abstain from the elections.

The Constitutional Court declared incumbent President Denis Sassou Nguesso the winner of the March presidential election in the first round with 84 percent of the vote. The court cited a 72 percent voter turnout among the more than two million eligible voters, with a 100 percent voter turnout in at least three regions.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Political parties and civil society groups faced restrictions on their ability to participate in the political and electoral process. The law conferred recognition on 55 of 200 existing parties. According to the government, the remaining political parties did not meet the nationwide representation requirements.

There were unconfirmed reports of government funds being used to secure transportation, illicit votes, and used for campaigning activities leading up to and during the two weeks of the presidential campaign. With no official report available on campaign financing, however, these reports could not be verified.

Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No laws limit participation of women or minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Observers suggested cultural constraints might limit the number of women in government. Sexual harassment discouraged women’s participation in political activities. There were 14 women in the 72-seat Senate and 15 women in the 151-seat National Assembly. There were seven women in the 36-member cabinet. The law require that women make up 30 percent of each party’s slate of candidates for local or legislative elections. The constitution grants parity for women in political positions and mandated the creation of a national advisory council for women, but it did not specify whether the promotion of parity related to pay, benefits, appointment to political positions, or other topics.

Members of the LGBTQI+ community were allowed to participate in the political process, and they did participate. Persons with disabilities participated regularly and actively in the political process, although some voting sites on election day lacked accommodations to make polling stations accessible to persons with certain disabilities.

The political process excluded many indigenous persons. Reasons included their isolation in remote areas, lack of registration, cultural barriers, and stigmatization by the majority Bantu population (see section 6).

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials. The government did not apply the anticorruption law, however, and many officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were some reports of government corruption during the year.

Corruption: Local and international organizations regularly accused government officials, including the president, his family, and senior ministers of corruption. The accusations generally alleged officials diverted revenues from their official portfolios into private, overseas accounts before officially declaring the remaining revenues.

In October international media reported French security forces detained Presidential Special Advisor Julien Ebata on charges of money laundering, bribery, and corruption at the Charles de Gaulle Airport (see also section 2.a, Libel/Slander Laws).

Also in October French authorities seized an apartment in Paris as part of an investigation into ill-gotten gains linked to Minister of International Cooperation Denis Christel Sassou Nguesso. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights

Several domestic and international human rights groups occasionally faced government restrictions during their investigations and when publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials were not cooperative with or responsive to international or domestic human rights groups. According to Freedom House, some domestic human rights groups did not report on specific human rights abuses due to fear of reprisal by the government. Among those arrested and detained after the March elections was Alexandre Dzabana Ibacka, the coordinator of a platform of human rights groups (see section 1.e., Political Prisoners and Detainees).

The local NGO Observers Coalition for Human Rights was denied a permit to host a public march in March leading into the presidential election. Additionally, in February a coalition of local NGOs who conducted voter observation training was denied election observer status by the government.

Government Human Rights Bodies: The government-sponsored Human Rights Commission (HRC) is the government human rights watchdog and is responsible for addressing public concerns regarding human rights. The HRC had little effectiveness or independence, and it undertook few activities directly responding to human rights concerns.

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