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[Press release] Democratic Republic of Congo : 4 October 2010 Assault against Clémence Bakatuseka, human rights defender

octobre 2010

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Bukavu, 23 October 2010

“Congolese authorities should initiate as soon as possible a serious and impartial investigation into the violent assault on October 4, 2010 in Beni of Ms. Clemence Bakatuseka, human rights defender, and the threats that she received” says a group of seven international human rights organizations. “The authorities should also make a firm commitment to put an end to the attacks against human rights defenders and bring to justice those responsible” added the group.

Ms. Clémence Bakatuseka, human rights defender and coordinator of the NGO Great Lakes Human Rights Program (GLHRP), was the victim of an attack on the night of October 4, 2010, at her home, located in the city of Beni, in the Province of Nord Kivu of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Six armed men, dressed in military uniforms, broke into her home and fired two shots at the lock of her bedroom door. The men ordered her to open the door and to give them the money she had received from an international NGO in order to finance her legal aid activities. When Ms. Bakatuseka refused to follow their instructions, the intruders fired a third shot and fled. The assault took place in the presence of Ms. Bakatuseka’s children.

“This attack confirms the worsening situation of human rights defenders in Nord Kivut and the continued risks that they must face” said Evert Kets of Protection International. “It is the responsibility of the Congolese State to ensure that rights of human rights defenders are guaranteed and implemented, in order to promote a culture of the respect of human rights and to permit the emergence of democratic values.

According to information gathered by Protection International and its local partners, the assault against Ms. Bakatuseka appears to be related to her activities in the defense of human rights, and in particular of her work in legal aid on behalf of victims of sexual violence. Thanks to her aid work and denunciation of these crimes, her organization, the GLHRP, has succeeded in obtaining the condemnation of both civilians and members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) for sexual violence.

The undersigned NGOs express their deepest concern with respect to the situation of human rights defenders in the DRC and deplore the deterioration of their security. To date, the murders of several journalists and of leaders of human rights associations (including Bruno Koko, Didace Namujimbo, Serge Maheshe, Pascal Kabungulu) have gone unpunished due to the lack of a fair trial or the obstruction of proceedings.

The group of NGOs request that the Congolese authorities :

- Conduct a serious, rapid, and impartial investigation in order to clarify the exact circumstances of the assault against Ms. Bakatuseka, and to identify and prosecute those responsible in accordance with both Congolese and international law ;

- Guarantee the protection of Ms. Bakatuseka and of all Congolese human rights defenders ;

- Publically condemn the assault against Ms. Bakatuseka and engage fully in the fight against impunity with respect to violations of the rights of human rights defenders ;

- Ensure the respect of the rights to life and to physical and moral integrity, the right to liberty of expression and of information, and the right to the inviolability of the home, respectively guaranteed in articles 16, 23, 24, and 29 of the Congolese Constitution of 18 February 2006, as well as in articles 6, 17, and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, of which the DRC is a signatory member ; and respect Article 9 (3) (a) and (b) of the Declaration on human rights defenders, concerning the right to attend hearings, proceedings, and trials and to offer and provide professional qualified legal aid or any other advice and support for the defense of human rights and fundamental liberties.

- Proceed with urgency towards defining and implementing an effective national policy to protect human rights defenders and to fight against impunity concerning atrocities committed against human rights defenders, conforming to international commitments made by the DRC ; Elaborate, enact and implement a national law regarding the protection of human rights defenders, underscoring the importance of their decisive role in the construction of the Rule of Law.

In accordance with the Guidelines of the European Union for the protection of human rights defenders in 2004, and with the local implementation strategy of these guidelines in the DRC, adopted March 20th 2010 by the heads of diplomatic missions in Kinshasa, the undersigned NGOs call on the Member States of the EU to :

- Insist that the Congolese authorities take appropriate measures to investigate the assault of and threats against Ms. Clémence Bakatuseka, and to ensure that these investigations are conducted in an impartial and thorough manner.

- Strengthen the support to the judicial system and Congolese police services in order that they may adequately and fully protect the defenders of human rights.

Signatories :
International NGOS :

- Act of Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT) - France ;

- Amnesty International ;

- Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme ;

- Front Line - International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders ;

- International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) ;

- Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) (a joint project between the International Organization for Human Rights and the World Organization against Torture) ; Protection International

For Further information, please contact :
Bukavu (DRC), Protection International, Evert Kets (English, French) : +243-81-0696809 and Ilaria Allegrozzi :

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