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URGENT ACTION

 

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

 

April 17th   2008

 

Death threats against lawyer

Jean Bedel Kaniki

of the Congolese Institute for Justice and Peace (ICJP) and those observing appeal hearings in Serge Maheshe murder case

 

Source : The Observatory

 

 

 

 Lawyer Jean Bedel Kaniki of the Congolese Institute for Justice and Peace (ICJP), Dieudonné Sango, vice-president of the Congo Provincial Network of Human Rights Organisations (Reprodhoc), Jean-Paul Ngongo of the NGO “Voice of Those Without Voice and Without Freedom,”  and Sophie Roudil, Bukavu representative of the NGO International Protection, the four independent observers  who are monitoring the appeal hearings of four people convicted of the June 2007 murder of journalist Serge Maheshe in the eastern city Bukavu received the same SMS message shortly after 8 pm on 17 April from the mobile number +243 85 32 10 208. It said: “Don’t worry. He who laughs last laughs longest. Those who have done so much to discredit this trial will pay for its outcome with their own blood. We are in the Congo. Be seeing you.”

 

The message’s four recipients are observing the appeal hearings that have been conducted in an very questionable manner since 6 February. They are part of an independent collective of 30 local organisations which is backed by International Protection and which issues a note after each hearing detailing the anomalies and irregularities that have constantly been observed.

 

The notes issued by the observers have been widely reported in the Congolese news media. During the 19 and 26 March hearings, they elicited angry comments from the presiding judge about “pointless” pressure on the court. The chief prosecutor, Capt. Dieudonné Kabembe, has warned the observers that they risk being prosecuted for “attacking the judiciary.”

After the four observers filed a complaint about the threatening SMS message, three of them - Sango, Ngongo and Bedel - received another one on 19 April. It said: “Complaint? A counter-attack? Hum !!! OK. The strongest will win. It is just a question of time. The die have been cast. Good luck.” Roudil meanwhile got a message saying: “With all respect, you are RESPONSIBLE for what will HAPPEN.”

 

“The harassment of these four observers, whose work is essential for the truth to emerge, is completely unacceptable and very disturbing,” the press freedom organisation said. “There are people who from the very outset have done everyone possible to prevent justice being done in this case and their actions are going from bad to worse. The government needs to finally take this seriously. It has the means of identifying and punishing those responsible for these threats. It must be done without delay.”

 

The news editor of UN-backed Radio Okapi’s regional office in Bukavu, Maheshe was gunned down as he was leaving a friend’s home in a residential district of Bukavu at around 9 p.m. on 13 June 2007. He was about to get into his UN-marked car when he and two close friends were approached by two men in civilian dress armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles, who ordered them to lie on the ground. One of them shot Maheshe twice in the legs and three times in the chest.

Aged 31, Maheshe had been working for Radio Okapi since 2002 and had become one of the leading members of the local press community.

Two men with a history of petty crime, Freddy Bisimwa Matabaro and Mugisho Rwezangabo Mastakila, were sentenced to death by a Bukavu military court on 28 August 2007 for Maheshe’s murder. To widespread stupefaction, the court at the same time also passed the death sentence on the two friends of Maheshe who were with him at the time, Serge Muhima and Alain Mulimbi Shamavu.

The court based its convictions solely on the “confessions” made by Matabaro and Mastakila and their testimony that Maheshe’s two friends were the instigators. No motive for the murder and no material evidence was produced. When issuing its verdict, the court acknowledged that many aspects of the case were unclear.

In a letter dated 8 September 2007, Matabaro and Mastakila accused two military judges of bribing them to say they shot Maheshe at the behest of his two friends. They claimed in the letter, a copy of which is held by Reporters Without Borders, that the two judges provided them with evidence to support this story and promised them they would be allowed to travel to South Africa and would receive a regular income.

 

ACTIONS REQUESTED:

Merci  d’écrire  aux autorités de RDC et de leur demander de :

i.                     Garantir en toutes circonstances l’intégrité physique et psychologique Mme Sophie Roudil, Me Jean Bedel, M. Jean-Pol Ngongo et M. Dieudonné Sango, ainsi que de tous les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme en RDC ;

ii.                   Mener une enquête indépendante sur les menaces décrites ci-dessus, afin que leurs auteurs soient identifiés, dûment jugés et sanctionnés conformément à la loi congolaise et aux dispositions internationales en matière de protection des droits de l’Homme ;

iii.                  Veiller à ce qu’un terme soit mis à toute forme de menaces et de harcèlement à l’encontre de tous les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme congolais ;

iv.                 Se conformer aux dispositions de la Déclaration sur les défenseurs des droits de l’Homme, et plus particulièrement à son article 1 qui dispose que “chacun a le droit, individuellement ou en association avec d’autres, de promouvoir la protection et la réalisation des droits de l’Homme et des libertés fondamentales aux niveaux national et international”, son article 6(b), selon lequel “chacun a le droit, individuellement ou en association avec d’autres, conformément aux instruments internationaux relatifs aux droits de l’Homme et autres instruments internationaux applicables, de publier, communiquer à autrui ou diffuser librement des idées, informations et connaissances sur tous les droits de l’Homme et toutes les libertés fondamentales”, son article 9.3(b) susmentionné, ainsi que son article 12.2, qui dispose que “l’Etat prend toutes les mesures nécessaires pour assurer que les autorités compétentes protègent toute personne, individuellement ou en association avec d’autres, de toute violence, menace, représailles, discrimination de facto ou de jure, pression ou autre action arbitraire dans le cadre de l’exercice légitime des droits visés dans la présente Déclaration” ;

 

v.                   Plus généralement, se conformer aux dispositions de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’Homme et instruments régionaux et internationaux relatifs aux droits de l’Homme ratifiés par la République démocratique du Congo.

ADRESSES :

  • Le Président de la République, S.E M. Joseph Kabila, Cabinet du Président de la République, Palais de la Nation, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo, Email: upp@ic.cd ; Fax +243 88 02 120;
  • Le Ministre des Affaires Etrangères et de la Coopération Internationale, M. Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi, Cabinet du Ministre, bâtiment du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo.
  • Le Ministre de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, M. Mutombo Bakafwa Senda, Ministère de la Justice et Garde des Sceaux, BP 3137, Kinshasa Gombé, République Démocratique du Congo, Fax: + 243 88 05 521, Email : minjustrdc@yahoo.fr
  • Vice-Ministre des Droits Humains, M. Claude Nyamugabo, , Cabinet du Vice-Ministre, Boulevard du 30 juin, Kinshasa/Gombe, République Démocratique du Congo, Fax: + 243 12 20 664 ; + 243 9939971 ; Email: min_droitshumains@yahoo.fr
  • Ambassadeur, M. Antoine Mindua Kesia-Mbe, Mission permanente de la République démocratique du Congo, Avenue de Budé 18, 1202 Genève, Suisse, e-mail : missionrdc@bluewin.ch, Fax : +41 22 740.16.82

Ecrire également aux représentations diplomatiques de la République démocratique du Congo dans vos pays respectifs.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

 

 

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