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[Press Relese] DRC: second Radio Okapi journalist killed in Bukavu in the past 18 months

November 2008

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DRC: second Radio Okapi journalist killed in Bukavu in the past 18 months

25 November 2008

The undersigned NGOs vehemently condemn the killing of Didace Namujimbo on the 21st November 2008 in Bukavu. We call on the authorities to initiate a detailed inquiry, guarantee a fair and just trial before an independent and impartial civil court.
We call on the authorities to put an end to impunity and assume their responsibility to protect journalists and human rights defenders in line with the international commitments the DRC has taken

Bukavu (capital of South Kivu) witnessed the burial of Didace Namujimbo, 34, a father and journalist from Radio Okapi, who was killed by a shot to the head on the evening of the 21st November 2008 while returning home. An inquiry has been launched and we have learnt that there were no eye-witnesses.
Didace Namujimbo worked meticulously providing information for the Congolese people, he showed great professionalism and respect for ethical rules. He covered sensitive issues such as the trial of the alleged murderers of his colleague Serge Maheshe, despite the general climate of intimidation the trial observers, press and lawyers were subject to.

The undersigned NGOs share the sadness of his family members, his colleagues and human rights defenders.

Emotions and bitterness are evident in Bukavu, especially since this murder follows on from that of defender Pascal Kabungulu, killed on 31st July 2005 (while working for the Human Rights League of the Great Lakes Region and the Heirs of Justice in Bukavu), and that of the Radio Okapi editing secretary, Serge Maheshe, a colleague of Didace Namujimbo, killed on 17th June 2007 in Bukavu. The trial of the alleged murderers of Pascal Kabungulu has been deadlocked for over three years in the military courts in Bukavu and to this day has still not resumed. The inquiry into the case of Serge Maheshe was grossly inefficient and the trial held at the military garrison tribunal and the military court in Bukavu could not guarantee a fair trial and failed to establish the veracity of the facts, nor those responsible (an appeal has been launched).
Human rights defenders in Bukavu and some international NGOs,, such as Protection International, provided independent observers for the trial and noted numerous anomalies, which they have flagged up in their many press releases. Some observers were victims of death threats and intimidation. They have since pressed charges with the competent bodies and are still waiting for the outcome of the inquiries.
Such a climate of impunity only promotes further crimes.

Therefore, the undersigned NGOs make the following immediate demands:

of the Congolese authorities:

- that they ensure an independent, impartial and in-depth inquiry into this crime;

- that they provide the police service with the human and financial resources necessary for them to carry out this task and identify the perpetrators;

- that they accept MONUC’s offer to act as a facilitator;

- that they guarantee a fair and just trial before an independent and impartial court, if the suspects can be identified;

- that they make sure this matter is entrusted to a civil court, not a military one, in line with the provisions of the new constitution [1].

They also demand that:

- the Congolese authorities urgently define and implement a national policy for the protection of journalists and human rights defenders in line with the DRC’s international commitments;

- the Congolese authorities urgently relaunch the Kabungulu and Maheshe cases before the competent courts.

the member states of the European Union:

- follow the inquiry launched in this affair by applying the EU’s guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders;

- urgently formulate a local strategy to implement these guidelines in lines with the conclusions of the European Council on human rights in December 2007.

MONUC [2] and the REJUSCO [3] programme:

- provide assistance to the police and legal services in the policing and legal tasks that fall to the Congolese authorities in these cases.

Signatory associations:

- Protection International (PI)
- Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France)
- International Federation of the Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT)
- The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders: joint programme of the International Federation of Human Rights Organisations (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
- Frontline Defenders
- Diakonie

Contact information: Please contact Protection International for more information:

- Pascale Boosten (+32-479-677475) pboosten@protectioninternational.org
- Sophie Roudil (+243 81 323 2685) sroudil@protectioninternational.org


[1] In line with article 156 of the Congolese constitution of 18th July 2006, military courts recognise the breaches committed by members of the armed forces and the national police, which therefore excludes the civil courts. To date, no suspect has been identified and it is unclear whether they are civilian or military personnel. The fact that the victim was killed by a bullet does not in itself justify transferring the case to the military auditing body because the application of article 111 of the Military Legal Code (text previous to the Constitution) laying down the competence of military courts where a “weapon of war” has been used, whether the perpetrators are military or not, has to be ruled out; in fact, by virtue of article 221 of the Constitution, previous legislative texts only remain applicable if they are not contrary to the new constitution, which is not the case in this instance (article 111 is in contradiction with article 156 of the Constitution, which made changes to these points).

[2] United Nations mission in the DRC

[3] REJUSCO: programme to restore justice in the eastern DRC

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