Activists Claude Lwaboshi Buhazi (32), Faustin Ombeni Tulinabo (26) and Serge Mikindo Waso (33), members of the citizen movement, Jicho la Raiya (The Eye of the Citizens) were arrested on February 18, 2021, in Kirotshe, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, as they were preparing to take part in a peaceful protest against “illegal road taxation” and allegations of mismanagement at the Kirotshe health district. They were accused of defamation and jailed at the police station in Kirotshe before being transferred to Goma Central Prison on March 2, 2021. On November 26, 2021, their request for release on bail was rejected by a military magistrate in Goma. Amnesty International calls for the three activists’ immediate and unconditional release.
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I would like to bring to your attention Claude Lwaboshi Buhazi (32), Faustin Ombeni Tulinabo (26) and Serge Mikindo Waso (33),
three activists arrested on February 18, 2021 in Kirotshe, Masisi territory, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who have since been arbitrarily detained in connection with their peaceful human rights activism.
On February 18, 2021, the three activists were planning a peaceful protest over “illegal road taxation” and allegations of mismanagement in the Kirotshe health district. The three members of the citizen movement, Jicho la Raiya (The Eye of the Citizens) were accused of “malicious accusations” against the then head of Kirotshe health district and a construction company in charge of roads maintenance in the area. On March 2, 2021, they were transferred to the Goma Central Prison, in North Kivu province’s capital, awaiting trial. Their initial appearance before a magistrate was only scheduled on May 10, 2021, under file number RP 2210. But because of the State of Siege announced on May 6, 2021, and the transfer of criminal offenses from civilian to military courts, they were only presented before a magistrate and formally charged on November 19, 2021. They have now spent over nine months in custody when the defamation offense they are accused of is punishable only from eight days to one year in prison.
Amnesty International believes that Claude Lwaboshi Buhazi, Faustin Ombeni Tulinabo and Serge Mikindo Waso’s prosecution and continued detention amount to a travesty of justice. Their plans to peacefully protest against “illegal taxation”, allegations of mismanagement of the Kirotshe health district and poor service delivery is a right under international and national laws. Their actions should be encouraged and not suppressed so that all people are able to hold authorities accountable for improving access to critical services such as health.
I call on you to order the three activists’ immediate release, as they are being detained solely in connection with the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. I also call on you to stop the prosecution of civilians before military courts, as they do not guarantee independence and impartiality under international human rights law, and to halt the use of defamation laws as a repressive tool to silence and punish peaceful dissent and critical voices.