Democratic Republic of Congo
26.09.17
Urgent Interventions

Free Rights Activists

Halt Crackdown on Peaceful Assembly, Freedom of Expression


(Kinshasa, September 26, 2017) – Democratic Republicof Congo authorities should immediately and unconditionally release nine Congolesehuman rights and pro-democracy activists wrongfully detained for theirparticipation in peaceful activities, 45 Congolese and international humanrights organizations said today. Four activists were arrested on July 14 and15, 2017 in Mbuji-Mayi and five others on July 31 in Lubumbashi.

“The Congolese authorities have thrown activists in jail for joining peacefulprotests calling for elections and for Congo’s constitution to be respected,” saidIda Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government shouldrelease them immediately and ensure that all Congolese have the right topeacefully demonstrate and express their political views.”

The nine activists are among hundreds arrested since 2015 as part of the Congolesegovernment’s widespread crackdown on people who have opposed President JosephKabila’s effort to remain in power beyond his constitutionally mandatedtwo-term limit, which ended in December 2016. In addition to human rights defendersand pro-democracy activists, the government has targeted political oppositionleaders and supporters, journalists, and people suspected of having links to thepolitical opposition. Many have been held for weeks or months in secretdetention, without charge and without access to families or lawyers. Someallege that they were mistreated or tortured and some are suffering serioushealth complications. Many were put on trial on trumped-up charges.

The four activists detained in Lubumbashi had participated in a peacefulprotest on July 31 against the national electoral commission’s failure topublish an electoral calendar, what many considered to be a critical step toensuring that elections will be held by the end of 2017, as called for in apower-sharing agreement mediated by the Catholic Church in late 2016. Authoritiesarrested at least 128 people in nine cities during protests across the country thatday, including 11 journalists.

Authorities released several of those arrested in Lubumbashi after a fewhours, but five were transferred to the prosecutor’s office and accused of “provocation”and “inciting disrespect for public authorities”: Timothée Mbuya, president ofJusticia, one of Lubumbashi’s main human rights organizations; Jean Mulenda,activist from the citizens’ movement Struggle for Change (LUCHA); Jean-PierreTshibitshabu, an activist and journalist at Radio Télé Kabekas (RTKA); PatrickMbuya, a human rights activist and a member of l’Amicale des Jeunes CongolaisBomoko (AJC BOMOKO); and Erick Omari, who said he was a bystander.

They were transferred to Kasapa, Lubumbashi’s central prison, the same day.All except Timothée Mbuya were convicted on August 29 and sentenced to eightmonths in prison. As a lawyer, Mbuya was first heard by two courts with higherjurisdiction; he is now being prosecuted by the same court that convicted thefour others. His trial is ongoing.

“Peacefully demonstrating to call for the publication of an electoralcalendar is part of the exercise of rights and freedoms guaranteed by theCongolese constitution,” said Patrick Ilunga, public relations director atJusticia. “The Congolese judiciary should not serve as instruments ofrepression, but instead uphold the constitution and end any politicallymotivated prosecutions.”

The LUCHA activists arrested in Mbuji-Mayi, in southern Congo, on July 14and 15 are: Nicolas Mbiya Kabeya, Josué Cibuabua Kalonda, Kabongo Kadima, andMamie Ndaya. They were first held by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR),without access to families or lawyers, then transferred on July 20 toMbuji-Mayi’s prosecutor’s office, and later to Mbuji-Mayi’s central prison,where they are still detained.

These pro-democracy activists had been investigating transparency in thevoter registration process in Kasaï Oriental province. They were accused of disclosingpersonal information people provided to the national electoral commissionduring voter registration, charges that appear to be politically motivated, theorganizations said. On September 15, the prosecutor’s office sought five-monthprison terms for the four. The Mbuji-Mayi High Court will deliver its judgment onSeptember 26.

“Congolese authorities should immediately put an end to their crackdown on therights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” said Evie Francq, Congoresearcher at Amnesty International. “They should immediately and unconditionallyrelease all the human rights defenders and activists wrongfully detained in Mbuji-Mayiand Lubumbashi.”

Signatories

International organizations:

1. AmnestyInternational

2. FIDH,within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders

3. Human RightsWatch

4. NeverAgain Coalition

5. WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Congoleseorganizations :

1. Les Amis de Nelson MANDELA pour ladéfense des Droits Humains (ANMDH)

2. Action contre l’impunité pour lesdroits humains (ACIDH)

3. Association congolaise pour l’accès àla justice (ACAJ)

4. Association des femmes pour ledéveloppement communautaire (AFEMDECO)

5. Action chrétienne contre la torture et la peine de mort,section du Haut-Lomami (ACAT/Haut-Lomami)

6. Action pour la justice et le développement (AJD)

7. Action rapide de développement (ARD)

8. Alliance pour la révolution de la conscience (ARPC)

9. Association africaine de défense des droits de l’homme,section du Katanga (ASADHO/Kat)

10. Comité de suivi pour lacontribution des communautés et églises à la transformation humaine (COSCET)

11. Congrès pour le renouveausyndical (CORES)

12. Centre pour les droitshumains et le droit humanitaire (CDH)

13. Centre international depromotion et développement et des droits humains (CEIPEDHO)

14. Centre pour la justice etla réconciliation (CJR)

15. Débout jeunesse congolaise (DJEC)

16. Femme d’action pour leréveil (FAR)

17. Fédération des droits del’homme (FDH)

18. Filimbi

19. Institut africain deformation en droits humains (INAFDH)

20. Human rescue (HR)

21. Héritiers d’Afrique (HA)

22. Humanisme et droitshumains (HDH)

23. Génération déterminée(GD)

24. Groupe d’action nonviolente évangélique (GANVE)

25. Justicia asbl

26. Libertas

27. Ligue contre la fraude etla corruption (LICOF)

28. Ligue internationale desconseillers (LIC)

29. Ligue des droits desmalades (LIDDM)

30. Ligue nationale paysannedes droits de l’homme (LINAPEDHO)

31. Ligue pour la zoneAfrique des droits des élèves (LEZADEL)

32. Lutte pour le changement (LUCHA)

33. Mama ni mama (MM)

34. Mobilisation,encadrement, écologie et défense des droits humains par les amis des famillesdémunies (MEEDAF)

35. Nouvelle DynamiqueSyndicale (NDS)

36. Nouvelle dynamique de lasociété civile (NDSCI)

37. Œuvre chrétienne pour lafemme (OCF)

38. Réseau des communicateurshumanitaires (RCH)

39. La Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droitsde l’Homme (VSV)

40. Voix du savoir (VS)

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