In the Democratic Republic of Congo, State security forces and services regularly torture both alleged opposition sympathisers and non-political prisoners.
Although the DRC claims before international bodies to uphold the principle of democracy and fundamental rights, the numerous international instruments forbidding the use of torture which it has ratified have not been respected. Torture is used as a matter of course to exact confessions from suspects as well as to punish or silence people.
One of the most feared security services is the National Intelligence Agency (l’Agence nationale de renseignements - ANR). It operates under the direct authority of the President and its sole mandate, in principle, is to investigate crimes against national security. However, it constantly exceeds its powers, assuming the role of the competent police and judicial authorities. ANR agents are thus able to randomly detain with complete impunity opposition sympathisers, members of civil society, journalists, or even those suspected of perpetrating common crimes. In violation of the presidential decision of 8 March 2001, which forbids places of illegal detention outside judicial control, the ANR is holding a number of prisoners in secret locations.
Similarly, the Congolese constitution, which states that all detainees have the right to enter into immediate contact with their families or legal counsel and must not be held in police custody for longer than forty-eight hours, after which they must be released or brought before the competent judicial authority, and that the life, physical and mental health and dignity of all detainees must be protected, has not been upheld.
Mulumba Kapepula, employee of the Congolese national railways (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer au Congo - SNCC), was arrested at around six in the evening of 16 March 2009 by five ANR agents and driven to the provincial headquarters of ANR -Katanga. After being tortured throughout the night, he was transferred the following morning by order of the ANR doctor to the Flora polyclinic to receive intensive care. No visits were authorised. On the evening of 20 March 2009, he was transferred to a secret location in Kinshasa.
Mr Kapepula had dared during a gathering of striking SNCC employees to publicly criticise the President of the Republic concerning the high bonuses awarded to footballers on the national team at a time when SNCC workers had not received their salaries for 36 months.
Translation of the letter
The human rights organisation ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture) in Luxembourg has informed me that the State security forces and services commonly use torture on many citizens throughout the Congo. However, under Article 18 of your country’s constitution, the life, physical and mental health, and dignity of all detainees must be protected.
One of the services most notorious for using torture is the National Intelligence Agency (l’Agence nationale de renseignements - ANR), which is under presidential control. It operates detention cells outside judicial authority where opposition sympathisers, members of civil society and ordinary people with no political affiliation who have been arbitrarily arrested for matters beyond the ANR’s jurisdiction are secretly detained. This is at odds with the presidential decision of 8 March forbidding all places of illegal detention.
Given that there are no circumstances which justify the use of torture, I urge you to take effective measures to :
• prevent the State security forces and services’ agents from conducting arbitrary arrests and using torture, in particular by closing illegal detention facilities and by curtailing the ANR’s activities ;
• abolish the impunity of those suspected of committing acts of torture by bringing them to justice.
Thank you for heeding my request.