DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO 2013 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a nominally centralized, constitutional republic. The president and the lower house of parliament (National Assembly) are popularly elected. Provincial assemblies choose the members of the upper house (Senate). In November 2011 the country held multi-party presidential and National Assembly elections, which many local and international observers characterized as lacking in credibility and seriously flawed. Authorities failed at times to maintain effective control over the security forces. Some security forces committed human rights abuses. The conflict in the eastern part of the country, which intensified significantly in 2012, continued and challenged government control in the region. The conflict led to the displacement of large numbers of persons and significant human rights violations and abuses, including the recruitment and use of children by the 23 March Movement (M23) armed group. The three most important human rights problems were: armed conflict in the East that exacerbated an already precarious human rights situation, particularly with regard to sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV); lack of an independent and effective judiciary; and impunity throughout the country for many serious abuses, including unlawful killings, disappearances, torture, rapes, and arbitrary arrests and detention. Other major human rights problems included: severe and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities; prolonged pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy, family, and home; abuse and obstruction of and threats against journalists, human rights advocates, and members of the political opposition by state security force (SSF) members; abuse of internally displaced persons (IDPs) by SSF and rebel and militia groups (RMGs); restrictions on the right to change the government peacefully; widespread corruption; SSF and RMG retention and recruitment of child soldiers; and use of forced civilian labor. Societal discrimination and abuse--particularly against women; children; persons with disabilities; ethnic minorities; indigenous persons; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons; and persons with albinism, trafficking in persons, child labor, and lack of protection of worker rights also were major problems.