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This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents

Congo (Kinshasa): Recent Documents
Date distributed (ymd): 980414
Document reposted by APIC

+++++++++++++++++++++Document Profile+++++++++++++++++++++

Region: Central Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+
Summary Contents:
This posting contains recent documents on the intensified crackdown on human rights groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch and the UN's Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa.

+++++++++++++++++end profile++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

URGENT ACTION - OBSERVATORY

New information

RDC 001 / 9803 / OBS 020.01 Dissolution of a NGO / harassment Democratic Republic of CONGO 6th of April 1998

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and OMCT requests your most urgent intervention in connection with the following situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Reminder of the situation

The Observatory had been informed by the AZADHO - Association for Human Rights (member of OMCT and the FIDH) of the armed attack against Mr. Floribert Chebeya, President of the Voix des Sans Voix pour les Droits de l'Homme. The Observatory had also received information relating to the defamation campaign launched on the 25th and 26th of March as well as a call for hatred against the AZADHO and its President, Mr. Guillaume Ngefa, in a leading article in the Government paper of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

These accusations followed the confiscation by the security services of 1 650 copies of the annual report of the AZADHO, and holding for questioning of its Vice-President Mr. Kambale and the dispatch of security agents to the secretariat of the organization for the purpose of intimidation.

The Observatory joined the AZADHO in denouncing the repressive policy systematically pursued by the authorities of the DRC against Human Rights Defenders and their organisations.

New information

The Observatory was informed by the AZADHO that on April 3rd 1998 the ministers of Economy and of Justice had announced on the national radio and television that the Government had decided to "banish and dissolve" the AZADHO and to close its offices on the whole of the national territory.

The Minister for Justice justified the dissolution of AZADHO by referring to its "illegal" character, the fact that it receives financial assistance from outside which allegedly prevents the government from enjoying similar financial support, the fact that AZADHO is allegedly engaged in political campaigns against the government and that it has retained the word "Zaire" in its acronym.

According to information received, AZADHO filed its statutes with the Ministry of Justice and the Keeper of the Seals on April 30th 1991 with a view to obtaining legal status in accordance with the Decree-Law of September 18th 1965 relating to non-profit making associations. That same year the Ministry of Justice granted the AZADHO a certificate (n=B0. Just / 20 / 184 / 91) authorising it to exercise its activities and another certificate recognising that it had complied with the formalities involved. Since then the successive Governments of the country have maintained contact with AZADHO. This organisation also enjoys consultative status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

As for the subsidies which it receives from outside, AZADHO stresses that this is merely a matter of internal organisation and that it has obviously no means of influencing those who dispose of international capital.

As for the acronym "AZADHO", all official documents of the organisation bear its new denomination: "Association for the Defence of Human Rights in the Congo-Kinshasa". The acronym AZADHO has been kept only in order to ensure recognition of its identity

The AZADHO finally recalls that it has no political aims; its only terms of reference being to remind the Government of its obligations concerning Human Rights and democratic principles.

The Observatory firmly condemns the resolution on the dissolution of AZADHO which violates international and regional principles. This is yet another manifestation of the repressive practices, intimidation and harassment which the authorities of the DRC pursue against human rights organisations and their members and which are a source of grave concern.

Action requested

Please write to the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo urging them to:

i. cancel their decision to ban and dissolve AZADHO on the whole of the territory of the DRC;

ii. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders;

iii. put an end to the campaigns of intimidation and defamation of associations for the defence of human rights and in particular AZADHO and its members;

iv. adopt urgently all appropriate measures to guarantee to AZADHO and other human rights organisations the means to carry on, free from any interference, their activities for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental principles;

v. more generally, abide by the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other regional and international human rights instruments binding on the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Addresses

Monsieur le President Laurent-Desire Kabila. Presidence de la Republique, Kinshasa-Ngaliema, Republique Democratique du Congo. Fax (+ 243) 880 11 20

Monsieur Mwenze Kongolo, Ministre de la Justice, Ministere de la Justice, BP 3137, Kinshasa - Gombe, Republique Democratique du Congo.

Monsieur Gaetan Kakudji, Ministre de l'Interieur, Ministere de l'Interieur, Hotel du Conseil executif, Kinshasa - Gombe, Republique Democratique du Congo.

Ambassade de la Republique Democratique du Congo.

Geneva - Paris, the 6th of April 1998

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete and consistent support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the Emergency Line.
Fax : 33 (0) 1 40 39 22 42 Tel. : FIDH 33 (0) 1 48 05 82 46

OMCT : + 41 22 733 31 40 E-mail : observatoire@iprolink.ch

The World Organisation Against Torture,
Case Postale 119 37-39 Rue de Vermont
CH1211 Geneva 20 CIC Switzerland.
Fax 4122 733 1051; Ph 4122 733 3140.
E-mail: omct@iprolink.ch; Web: http://www.omct.org/

OMCT - The World Organisation Against Torture is the Worlds largest network of human rights organisations fighting against all forms of torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, forced disappearances summary execution or other more subtle forms of violent repression. OMCT has consultative status with the UN, The ILO and the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights.


Civil Society Under Attack In Congo- Kinshasa

For further information, contact
Human Rights Watch,
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor,
New York, NY 10118-3299 USA.
TEL: 1-212-290-4700 FAX: 1-212-736-1300
E-mail: hrwnyc@hrw.org
1522 K Street, N.W. Washington D.C. 20005
TEL: 202/371-6592 FAX: 202/371-0124.
Web Site Address: http://www.hrw.org

(New York, April 2, 1998)--As President Clinton today recognizes the efforts of civil society in Africa, civil society activists in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are facing new attacks from their government. Human Rights Watch charged today that the Congolese authorities are cracking down on a range of independent voices -- including journalists, academics, development experts, and in particular human rights defenders -- in order to silence criticism of their increasingly repressive policies.

President Clinton meets today with leaders of democracy and human rights organizations from several African countries in the Senegalese capital Dakar, including one from the DRC. "While the Congolese government is paying lip service to human rights and making declarations about a transition to democracy, these attacks on independent voices speak louder than their words," said Peter Takirambudde, executive director for Africa at Human Rights Watch. "We urge President Clinton to demonstrate his support for civil society in Africa by publicly condemning these attacks."

The most recent attack on leaders of civil society in the DRC took place on the night of March 20-21, when four soldiers accompanied by a civilian forced their way into the Kinshasa home of Floribert Chebeya, president of the Voice of the Voiceless, one of the leading human rights organizations in the country. The five attackers tied him up and took him at gun point to a vacant lot where he was beaten severely with a rifle butt and kicked repeatedly. After threatening to kill him, the attackers left with money and valuables from his home. Mr. Chebeya, who is a former winner of the Reebok Human Rights Award and internationally recognized for his organization's courageous efforts to defend human rights in the Congo under Mobutu, lodged an official complaint with the police, but the DRC government has failed to open an investigation.

The attack on the Voice of the Voiceless is indicative of increasing government attempts to stifle independent voices. In early March, Pascal Kambale, the vice-president of the Association for the Defense of Human Rights (AZADHO), was summoned to the National Security Council, and questioned about the sources of an AZADHO report on a civilian massacre perpetrated by government soldiers in mid-February 1998 in the eastern town of Butembo. On March 13, the same day that a government conference on human rights in Kinshasa released a declaration about the importance of human rights in national reconstruction, agents of the national intelligence agency confiscated hundreds of copies of AZADHO's annual report about human rights in the DRC.

Attacks on the independent press and others who have written about human rights abuses have been a key feature of the government's campaign against civil society. Among the many such incidents, in late March customs authorities at Kinshasa airport seized some 2,000 copies of the international edition of Le Soft newspaper. This was the second edition of that paper to be seized in March, and the fifth in eight months. In February, authorities detained the editor of Le Potentiel for three days for articles published in his paper denouncing the arrest and banishment of opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Roger Sala Nzo, secretary-general of the National Human Rights Center was arrested in Kinshasa on November 23, 1997 and detained for three months as punishment for the publication of a report critical of rampant human rights abuses under the current government.

Human rights organizations have been a frequent target of the Kabila government. For example, Didi Mwati Bulambo, general coordinator of the Collectif d'Action pour le Development des Droits de l'Homme (Collective of Actions for Human Rights Development), was arrested and tortured by the army in August 1997 in his native Mwenge district of South Kivu as punishment for his human rights activism. At about the same time, Bertin Lukanda of the rights group Haki Za Binadamu, Swahili for "human rights organization," was arrested and tortured by army soldiers in the eastern town of Kindu. His tormentors accused him of spying for the United Nation's investigation into reports of refugee massacres in eastern DRC.

Human Rights Watch believes that the DRC government targets Mr. Chebeya and other advocates to prevent them from defending and promoting human rights in their country. We call on the DRC government to immediately cease attacks on civil society and to conduct a thorough and independent investigation into these and similar incidents to identify and punish those responsible for arbitrary detaining, beating and harassing civil society leaders and rights defenders.

Human Rights Watch calls on the U.S. government to give visible, high-profile support to efforts by organizations of civil society to promote human rights standards and monitor their governments' compliance. The U.S. should also speak out publicly against governmental actions that encroach upon the ability of these groups to operate freely.


U N I T E D N A T I O N S

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for Central and Eastern Africa
Tel: +254 2 622147
Fax: +254 2 622129
e-mail: irin@dha.unon.org

Central and Eastern Africa:
IRIN Weekly Round-up 15-98
covering the period 3-9 Apr 1998 (excerpts)

AZADHO human rights organisation banned

The DRC authorities have banned the national human rights organisation AZADHO. Justice Minister Kongolo Mwenze, speaking on DRC television on Saturday, said AZADHO had no formal authorisation and had therefore been operating illegally. He accused the organisation of "indulging in political campaigns instead of providing objective reports", adding that it was funded by foreign groups and could not be considered Congolese. However, AZADHO's president Guillaume Ngefa - quoted by Radio France Internationale - stated the ban would be ignored. "The government is looking for a scapegoat to cover its political and economic failure," he said.

List of "politically excluded" revoked

A presidential statement on Friday declared "null and void" a list of 248 names excluded from political activity issued by the constitutional commission earlier last week. The statement said commission president Anicet Kashamura had been acting in "an individual capacity" and the government distanced itself from the list. The commission's responsibilities were limited to drawing up a draft constitution for the third republic, the statement added.

IRIN Update No. 394 for Central and Eastern Africa
(Friday-Monday 10-13 April 1998) (excerpts)

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN probe suspended

The probe by the UN team investigating alleged human rights violations has been suspended until further notice, news media reported. The move, ordered by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, follows the temporary detention of a Canadian member of the team at Kinshasa airport and the seizure of some documents he was carrying. On Friday, the head of the mission, Atsu-Koffi Amega, accused the DRC authorities of snooping and photocopying documents, AFP said. This was a serious violation of the team's diplomatic immunity, Amega added. Another member of the team, Paul Laberge, quoted by AFP, said the seizure of the documents meant the enquiry's confidentiality had been broken and the security of witnesses could not be guaranteed. UN spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt on Thursday said the team's work would be suspended "in view of the serious nature of the circumstances". The permanent under-secretary at the DRC presidency, Yerodia Abdoulaye Ndombasi, told a news conference on Friday the investigator had been detained for passport irregularities.

[The material contained in this communication comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. UN IRIN Tel: +254 2 622123 Fax: +254 2 622129 e-mail: irin@dha.unon.org for more information or subscriptions. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. IRIN reports are archived on the WWW at: http://wwwnotes.reliefweb.int or can be retrieved automatically by sending e-mail to archive@dha.unon.org. Mailing list: irin-cea-weekly]


This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups individuals.


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