REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Head of state and government Denis Sassou-N’Guesso
Torture and other ill-treatment by members of the security forces were reported, in some cases leading to deaths. Three asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held without charge or trial since 2003 were released. Government critics were denied freedom of expression and detained for several months.
On 4 March, as many as 300 people died, some 2,000 were injured and nearly 20,000 were made homeless by explosions caused by a fire in a munitions depot at the Congolese armoured regiment in the capital, Brazzaville. The government set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the cause and establish responsibility; more than 20 people were arrested at the end of March and were still held without trial at the end of the year. Those arrested, who included army Colonel Marcel Ntsourou, deputy secretary general of the National Security Council, were initially detained by the General Directorate for the Surveillance of the Territory (Direction générale de la surveillance du territoire, DGST) security service and subsequently transferred to Brazzaville central prison. The former Minister of Defence, Charles Zacharie Bowao, who had been dropped from the government during the September reshuffle, was subsequently charged with “clumsiness, carelessness, inattention and negligence which resulted in the events of 4 March and caused deaths, injuries and significant material damage”. None of those accused in connection with the explosions had been brought to trial by the end of the year and the commission of inquiry had not published its findings.
Two rounds of National Assembly elections took place in July and August. They were won by the ruling Congolese Workers’ Party (Parti congolais du travail, PCT). Opposition parties and several human rights groups claimed that less than 20% of the electorate had voted.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Members of the security forces committed torture and other ill-treatment. In some cases, the victims died from their injuries and the perpetrators were not brought to justice.
- Delly Kasuki died on 26 May after he was severely beaten by members of the Group for the Repression of Banditry (Groupe de répression contre le banditisme, GRB), who left his body at the university hospital in Brazzaville without informing his family. A local human rights organization reported that Delly Kasuki had been beaten when he resisted what he believed was an unlawful arrest.
- In July, two bodyguards for a government minister and National Assembly candidate of the ruling PCT severely beat François Batchelli whom they accused of supporting a rival candidate. The bodyguards also briefly detained Felix Wamba, a suspected supporter of an opposition candidate, and beat his wife and children.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Three asylum-seekers from the DRC who had been detained without charge or trial since March 2003 were released. Médard Mabwaka Egbonde was released in June while Germain Ndabamenya Etikilime was released in September. Bosch Ndala Umba was released in November. Médard Mabwaka Egbonde sought asylum in Sweden. The future of the other two men and that of Germain Ndabamenya’s family remained uncertain as they continued to be denied asylum in the Republic of Congo or in a third country.
Thousands of refugees who had fled to the north of the Republic of Congo in 2009 returned to the DRC from May onwards.
Nearly 300 Congolese nationals whose refugee status had ceased were forcibly returned from Gabon. About 100 others reportedly returned voluntarily. Some of those who were forcibly returned claimed to have been ill-treated by the Gabonese authorities and to have lost their property.