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Democratic Republic of the Congo
Urgent Interventions

Press release-DRC: Prosecution calls for the death penalty for 115 persons being tried in relation with the late President Laurent Désiré Kabila’s assassination.


For the attention of the Press

Geneva, December 18th 2002

Democratic Republic of Congo: Prosecution calls for the death penalty for 115 persons being tried in relation with the late President Laurent Désiré Kabila’s assassination.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is gravely concerned by the closing speech made by the prosecution on December 11th at the Court of Military Order (COM -“Cour d'Ordre Militaire"), in which the Public Prosecutor called for death sentences for 115 of the 130 persons that are being tried concerning the assassination of former President Laurent Désiré Kabila.

La Voix des Sans Voix (VSV), a member of the OMCT network, has informed OMCT that the trial, which started on March 15th 2002, has not been carried out according to internationally recognised standards of fair trial, for the following reasons:

§ civilians are being tried by a military court, which is exclusively competent for military offences committed by military staff;
§ the accused are not being allowed to be heard by an independent, impartial and competent court and are being tried by military staff that have been appointed by the Head of State;
§ the family of the Head of State is an interested party in the trial, and is thought to be influencing its outcome;
§ the accused are not being the right to lodge an appeal before an independent court, since the sentences handed down by the COM cannot be appealed.

The International Secretariat of OMCT had already expressed serious concern when the Government of Congo decided to suspend the moratorium on the death penalty, which had been in force since December 1999, on September 23rd, 2002. It must be added that the abolition of the COM was on the agenda of the Government's national plan of action in 1999. Despite having been identified as being unable to deliver justice in line with international standards, the COM continues to operate and is being used in order to hand down politically-motivated sentences, which now may culminate in the sentencing to death of as many as 115 persons.

Although there has recently been revived hope in the Democratic Republic of a settlement to the ongoing conflict in the country, notably through the signature on December 12th, 2002, in Pretoria of an agreement between the Government, rebels and opposition parties, the developments in this trial are of particular concern for the human rights situation in Congo. OMCT therefore calls on the Congolese Authorities to ensure that, in the case that any death sentences be handed down, none of them be carried out in this trial, OMCT wants the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo to face their responsibilities and asks them to intervene firmly in order to assure that no death penalty that might be sentenced in the next days be carried out.

Contact OMCT : Christine Ferrier ++ 4122 809.49.39
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