Urgent Action: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MUST BE RELEASED (Democratic Republic of Congo: UA 31.23)
April 5, 2023
King Mwamisyo and Elias Bizimungu are two activists with the citizens’ movement, LUCHA in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They were arrested in April and September 2022, respectively, on trumped-up charges solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly after criticising the military and police authorities in the eastern province of Nord-Kivu for failing to protect the people under their jurisdiction and for being complicit in human rights violations under the “state of siege” since May 2021. They are prisoners of conscience that must be released immediately and unconditionally.
Please take action as-soon-as possible. This Urgent Action expires on May 31, 2023.
Write a letter in your own words or using the sample below as a guide to one or both government officials listed. You can also email, fax, call or Tweet them.
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Governor of Nord-Kivu provinceLt-General Constant Ndima
Avenue du Lac, quartier Himbi, Goma
Democratic Republic of Congo
Email: [email protected]
I write to express my grave concern for the unlawful prosecution of King Mwamisyo and Elias Bizimungu, both human rights activists held arbitrarily in connection to the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
King Mwamisyo, a law student and activist from the citizens movement LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement, or Fight for Change in English) was arrested by the Police Commander for Goma, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC)’s northern province of Nord-Kivu, on 2 April 2022 and detained for seven days without charge. On 9 April 2022, he was transferred to the Goma military prosecutor’s office and interrogated about his social media posts in which he criticized the provincial and urban authorities (who happen to be military and police officers because of the “state of siege”) for failing to ensure security and instead using their powers to extort the population and commit multiple human rights violations. That day, he was charged with “insulting the army” (outrage à l’armée) and sent to Goma prison where he remains held. On 9 December 2022, the Goma military court found him guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison and an additional five years of deprivation of civil and political rights which includes ineligibility to hold public office and deprivation of the right to vote. He appealed against the sentence, and the appeal hearings before the Goma superior military court are underway, with the first hearing due to take place on 5 April.
Elias Bizimungu, also a LUCHA activist and journalist from the town of Kiwanja, about 75km north of Goma, was arrested on 26 September 2022 at an army checkpoint on the first day of a two-day peaceful mobilization to protest the Rwandan support of the ‘M23 rebellion’. On 29 September 2022, he was transferred to the Goma prison where he is still detained. He was detained without charges and did not have access to a lawyer until 22 December 2022, when his trial started. He was only informed of the charges, including “participation in an insurrectional movement”, during trial. On 29 December 2022, the military tribunal held that it lacked jurisdiction to try this offense. Three months later, on 6 March, the case was handed over to the Goma ordinary (civilian) court. The first hearing was held on 16 March.
I urge you to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of King Mwamisyo and Elias Bizimungu, and to quash the conviction and drop the charges against them. I also urge you to take steps to improve conditions at the Goma prison by ensuring the rights to adequate shelter, food, clean water, healthcare, and safe environment of those detained, and to immediately remove and permanently prohibit impediments to visits by lawyers and family members, including illegal fees.
[YOUR NAME]ADDITIONAL RESOURCES