Amnesty Internatonal Condems Politically Motivated Arrests of Congolese Journalists, Lawyers, and Opposition Supporters Following Disputed Elections

Press Release
December 19, 2011

Amnesty Internatonal Condems Politically Motivated Arrests of Congolese Journalists, Lawyers, and Opposition Supporters Following Disputed Elections

Human Rights Organization Demands Release of Individuals Arrested Unlawfully

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(New York) -- Amnesty International said today the Congolese security forces are taking advantage of the tense climate and uncertainty following the disputed elections to arrest dozens of journalists, lawyers, opposition politicians and their supporters. The human rights organization called for an end to politically-motivated arrests and intimidation and the immediate release of individuals detained unlawfully.

The arrests threaten freedoms of expression and assembly, said Paule Rigaud, Amnesty International's deputy Africa program director.

"These arrests must end," said Rigaud "Those detained must be released unless they are promptly charged with legitimate criminal offence and brought before a judge to challenge the legality of their detention with full respect of their fair trial rights, including access to a lawyer."

Reports suggest that the practice is used as a method of intimidation and the victims include civilians, journalists, lawyers and opposition politicians, as well as some security force officers themselves.

Four community radio journalists were arrested by agents of the national intelligence agency (Agence nationale de renseignements, ANR) on December 14 in Kabambare, in the eastern province of Maniema after being accused of violating an official decision to close down their radio station. Three of them were released in the afternoon the same day, while the fourth one was released the next day.

On December 13 in Bukavu, South Kivu, agents of the Congolese National Police (Police Nationale Congolaise, PNC) reportedly beat and arrested lawyer Eustache Nsimba and brought him to an unknown location. He had been taking part in a march organized by the opposition. Bukavu's mayor had been previously informed about the march but allegedly banned it during a radio announcement. Nsimba was released later the same day.

Amnesty international has also learned that security agents were involved in the arbitrary arrests of at least two Union for Democracy and Social Progress (Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social, UDPS) members in Katanga province. Both members of the main opposition party are still being detained, with one of them held incommunicado at the ANR holding cell.

According to a local NGO, members of the national army (FARDC) have also reportedly abducted or arbitrarily arrested a dozen of other army officers and PNC agents as well as civilians since the beginning of December in Kinshasa. All those arrested were allegedly targeted because they come from Equateur province and the two Kasai provinces, two strongholds of the opposition.

The whereabouts of some of the detainees is unknown, while others are being detained incommunicado in military camps in Kinshasa such as Kokolo camp or in other facilities that fall outside the scrutiny of any judicial authority, such as the Tshatshi camp and the Groupe Litho Moboti (GLM) Building.
 
Amnesty International urges the Congolese authorities to clarify the fate of those being detained, and release them if they are not promptly charged with a legitimate criminal offence, allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their continuing detention and granted access to their families and lawyers.

The organization also calls on the Congolese authorities to ensure a thorough, impartial and independent investigation is carried out into reported human rights violations, including unlawful killings of demonstrators, carried out by the DRC security forces and others in the immediate run-up to the elections.

"Numerous reports of human rights violations marred the run-up to the Congolese elections, and continue, with restrictions placed on freedom of expression and assembly, and security forces intimidating opposition supporters and human rights defenders," said Rigaud.

"All those responsible for such violations must be investigated and swiftly brought to justice. Impunity would only fuel further violence and abuses."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.


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