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[Press release] D.R. Congo: Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, human rights defender, found dead

June 2010

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D.R. Congo: Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, human rights defender, found dead.

The undersigned NGOs express their outrage following the death of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, whose body was found on June 2nd 2010 on a road outside of Kinshasa, and at the disappearance of Fidèle Bazana Edadi. The organizations call on the Congolese authorities to undertake a thorough, independent, and impartial investigation including an autopsy to determine the causes of death, and to ensure a just and fair trial before an independent and impartial judiciary, if the evidence demonstrates justifiably that the case was a murder and identifies suspects.

The organizations also call upon the Congolese authorities to put an end to impunity and to assume their responsibility to protect human rights defenders, in accordance with the international commitments made by the DRC.

Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, president of the Congolese human rights NGO La Voix des Sans-Voix pour les droits de l’homme (Voices of the Voiceless), and executive secretary of the DRC National Network of NGOs for the Defense of human rights (RENADHOC) was found dead on Wednesday June 2nd 2010 in his car on the road between Kinshasa and Matadi, in the town of Mont Ngafula, the area of Mitendi, after being reported missing the previous evening. The VSV reported hours after a phone call with the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police that the circumstances of the death remain unclear.

According to the same source, Fidèle Bazana Edadi, (also a member of the VSV) who would have accompanied Floribert Chebeya in the car to visit the Police station, has been presumed missing since the evening of the 1st of June. M. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, 47 years old, had already been the subject of numerous intimidations and threats related to his work as a human rights activist.

The undersigned NGOs express their sympathy for the friends and colleagues of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, as well as for all human rights activists. The death of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, known by all for his work in favor of the respect of human rights, represents a considerable loss for the national and international community of human rights advocates.

The undersigned NGOs also express their concern that the situation of human rights defenders in the DRC continues to deteriorate. Today, numerous deaths of journalists and directors of associations for the defense of human rights (among them Pascal Kabungulu, Serge Maheshe, Didace Namujimbo, Bruno Cirambiza....) remain unpunished for lack of a fair trial or due to the administrative blocking of records. This climate of impunity encourages continued violations.

Therefore, the undersigned NGOs call for the following actions:

To the Congolese public authorities:

• To ensure an independent and impartial investigation, with an autopsy, to determine the exact causes and circumstances of the death of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire.
• To permit the family members and the experts of their choice to access the body of the victim without delay and to assure them adequate protection.
• To conduct an urgent investigation concerning the disappearance of the driver Fidèle Bazana Edadi.
• To ensure that the police service, including the forensic police, adequate human and financial resources such that they can fulfill their assignment and identify those responsible if they rule the case a murder.
• To request the logistical and technical assistance of the MONUC.
• To guarantee a just and equitable process, before an independent and impartial judiciary, should suspects be identified.
• To proceed with urgency towards the creation and implementation of a national policy for the protection of human rights defenders, conforming to the international engagements undertaken by the DRC.

To the MONUC, EUPOL and the program that will replace REJUSCO:

• To assist, in accordance with their respective mandates, the police and judicial services in their respective duties, which are incumbent upon the Congolese authorities in this matter.

To the Member States of the European Union :

• To follow the investigation in connection with this incident, in keeping with the Guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders of the EU in 2004 and the Local Strategy to put into practice these Guideline for the DRC adopted by the mission coordinators the 20th of March 2010.

Signatory Association and Networks

Le Réseau des Associations des Droits de l’Homme du Sud Kivu (RADHOSKI) (The Network of Human Rights Associations from Sud Kivu)
Le Réseau des ONG des Droits de l’Homme au Congo (REPRODHOC/Sud Kivu) (The Network of NGOs for the protection of Human Rights in the DRC)
Le Réseau de Protection des Victimes, Témoins et Défenseurs des Droits Humains (VIWINE/Sud-Kivu) (The Network for the Protection of Victims, Witnesses, and Human Rights Defenders)
Le Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC)(Central Africa Human Rights Defenders Network)
Protection International (PI) (Protection International)
Commission Internationale des Juristes (CIJ) (International Commission of Jurists)
Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (ACAT-France) (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
Fédération internationale de l’Action des chrétiens pour l’abolition de la torture (FIACAT) (International Federational of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture)
Frontline Defenders
Diakonisches Werk der EKD (The EKD Social Service Agency)
Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (Diakonia Disaster Relief)
SOS Faim Luxembourg (SOS Hunger Luxembourg)
Agir Ensemble pour les Droits de l’Homme (AEDH) (Acting Together For Human Rights)
Heal Africa
RCN Justice et Démocratie (RCN Justice and Democracy)

Contacts :

Brussels : Pascale Boosten, PI (+32.479.677.475)
pboosten@protectioninternational.org
RD Congo : Ilaria Allegrozzi, PI (+243.810.696.685)
iallegrozzi@protectioninternational.org
Paris : Marie-Jo Cocher, FIACAT (+33142800160) mj.cocher@fiacat.org

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