Posts Tagged ‘cover up’

DR Congo should reopen inquiry into murder of Floribert Chebeya

February 12, 2021
A man wearing a T-shirt with portraits of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana attends the trial in Kinshasa on April 30, 2013 of policemen accused of killing the two men in 2010.
A man wearing a T-shirt with portraits of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana attends the trial in Kinshasa on April 30, 2013 of policemen accused of killing the two men in 2010. © 2013 Junior D. Kannah/AFP via Getty Images

On 11 February 2021 Human Rights Watch stated that The Democratic Republic of Congo government should reopen its investigation into the 2010 double murder of the leading human rights defender Floribert Chebeya and his driver, Fidèle Bazana, following new revelations about the case. Amid allegations reported by international media outlets that the murders were carried out on the orders of the police chief at that time, Gen. John Numbi, Human Rights Watch called for a credible, impartial, and independent inquiry.

On February 8, 2021, in radio interviews with Radio France Internationale (RFI) and Deutsche Welle, two Congolese police officers in exile admitted to taking part in the murders of Chebeya and Bazana on the premises of police headquarters on June 1, 2010 and provided a detailed account of the murder. At a meeting in April 2019, President Felix Tshisekedi personally told Chebeya’s wife and human rights groups that he was committed to conducting an impartial investigation into the murder.

President Tshisekedi should put his words about investigating the Chebeya murder into action,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The latest revelations show the need for a new inquiry and present the best chance to see that justice is done.

On June 1, 2010, Chebeya received a telephone call asking him to attend a meeting at General Numbi’s office. The next day, the police said that Chebeya had been found dead in his car in the Mont Ngafula area of Kinshasa, the capital. The body of his driver, Bazana, is still missing.

Speaking to RFI and Deutsche Welle from an undisclosed location abroad, the former police drivers Hergil Ilunga and Alain Kayeye revealed details about the plan to kill Chebeya and how it was carried out. They alleged that police officers asphyxiated Chebeya and Bazana, one after the other, in different police vehicles at the police headquarters.

They admitted to taking part in the murders and covering them up on the orders of Col. Daniel Mukalay, then the police intelligence chief, and Christian Ngoy, then the commander of the feared Simba battalion. The two former drivers said that both senior officers were acting upon Numbi’s instructions.

Ilunga and Kayeye said they would be ready to face justice if their safety were guaranteed. They claimed to have fled Congo in late 2020 for fear of their lives as Numbi was allegedly looking to kill them.

Chebeya was among Congo’s most vocal human rights defenders, regularly exposing abuses by the country’s security services and successive governments over many years. He was threatened and intimidated repeatedly by Congolese authorities because of his work. He received the now defunct Reebok award: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/BA601D45-292F-61CB-530A-17FE52D5F974

Following a widely criticized trial by a military court – with a first verdict in June 2011 and an appeal decision in September 2015 – four police officers were found guilty of murdering Chebeya and Bazana. Ngoy, along with Paul Mwilambwe and Jacques Mugabo, were tried in absentia and sentenced to death. Mukalay, the highest-ranking officer on trial, was sentenced to 15 years in prison and is currently serving his sentence at Kinshasa’s central prison. The military court also found the Congolese government at fault and ordered it to pay damages to the families of both victims.

When the trial began in November 2010, Numbi, then police inspector general, was presented to the court as a witness even though he was widely suspected to be behind the murders. In 2014, one of the fugitives, Mwilambwe, resurfaced in Senegal, where he accused Numbi of orchestrating the murders. Senegalese authorities opened an investigation and Mwilambwe was indicted in January 2015. But the proceedings stalled, and the investigation is ongoing in Senegal. Mwilambwe, a presumed key witness, has since moved to Belgium and has also said he was ready to stand trial. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/01/13/indictment-in-senegal-a-breakthrough-in-the-congolese-chebeya-bazana-case/]

On September 3, 2020, Ngoy was arrested in Lubumbashi and immediately transferred to Ndolo military prison in Kinshasa for possession of illegal weapons. Following his arrest, Congolese human rights organizations said that the authorities should reopen the Chebeya case.

Following these new revelations, over 100 Congolese human rights groups called for the immediate arrest of Gen. Numbi and the reopening of Chebeya’s case. Ambassadors in Congo from the EU, Belgium, and the US have also all publicly backed reopening the inquiry. The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office said it was “available to assist the judiciary in shedding light on the despicable murder of Chebeya and Bazana.”

“The Chebeya and Bazana families have yet to learn the full truth and obtain justice for the gruesome killings of their loved ones,” Fessy said. “With these new revelations, the Congolese government needs to act. The judiciary should provide safe conditions to hear those who have come forward while General Numbi and other senior officials implicated in the murders should be fully and fairly investigated.”

Note the latest: https://www.theafricareport.com/74437/drc-general-john-numbi-implicated-in-the-chebeya-case-has-fled-the-country/

https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/02/11/dr-congo-reopen-inquiry-prominent-activists-murder

Vloggers selling their souls to boost image of Arab regimes

September 2, 2020

Mat Nashed in Ozy.com of 1 september 2020 addresses a major but often neglected issue: The Secret Weapon of Arab Regimes — Influencers and Vloggers. It is an excellent piece worth reading in full (see below). I have several times drawn attention to anti-human rights celebrity endorsements [e.g. see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/13/saudi-arabia-finds-that-celebrities-are-easier-to-buy-than-human-rights-ngos/] and sports washing [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/sports-washing/]/

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European Human Rights Court confirms that Turkish migrant was subject to torture in Crete

January 21, 2012

This post wants to draw attention first to the good news that a torture victim was given compensation and secondly the positive role that a tenacious journalist can play. That the case occurred in what is now almost my home town Chania makes it only the more interesting to report on.

In a unanimous ruling delivered on January 17, 2012 the Strasbourg-based court said that Necati Zontul had suffered torture when a coastguard officer raped him with a truncheon at a makeshift detention centre for migrants in the Cretan city of Chania. In its ruling the Court, which includes a Greek judge, ordered Greece to compensate Zontul to the tune of 50,000 euros. The torture took place on 5 June 2001, nine days after Zontul had been taken to the centre along with 164 other undocumented migrants, all arrested on a boat that was intercepted by the coastguard as it made its way from Istanbul to Italy.

On 9 June 2001 the asylum-seekers were visited by members of Doctors of the World. They examined the men and sent photos to the local port authorities. The local human rights group of Amnesty International, the Greek Helsinki Monitor and UNHCR Greece all intervened is some stage and protested the cover up by the authorities as laid down in the detailed time table of events collected by the journalist Kathy Tzilivakis in her article of 27 February 2004: see: http://www.athensnews.gr/old_issue/13055/10953

On the basis of Zontul’s allegations, five coastguards were later tried by a naval tribunal on criminal charges of undermining human dignity. In October 2004, one of the five officers, Yiorgos Dandoulakis, was found guilty of sexually abusing Zontul and received a 30-month prison sentence suspended for five years. The three other defendants were charged with physically abusing many of the migrants and were given 18-month suspended sentences. On appeal, Dandoulakis had his punishment reduced to six months’ jail, which was commuted to a fine. The other officers also had their punishments reduced. The ECHR was particularly critical of the final penalty handed down to Dandoulakis, which it said was “disproportional” and “could not be said to have a deterrent effect nor could it be perceived as fair by the victim”. The ECHR also found that Zontul, who moved to the UK in 2004, was not kept informed by the Greek state on the progress of the proceedings against the coastguards.

“This is not a judgment against Greece but against corrupt people in Greece,” Zontul emphasised to Athens News. “The corruption that led to the present Greek financial crisis is the same sort of corruption that led to my assault and certainly lies behind the efforts made by the authorities to cover it up. This is a small step towards honesty and I am proud to be a part of that,” he added. Zontul thanked the newspaper for its reporting on the case: “Without the help of the Athens News, this story and the positive result would have never taken place and I would be just another nameless victim.”

In his letter to Athens News of 18 January, Zontul further writes: “This judgement means that Greek law (and particularly Article 137A) must now change to reflect the EU definition of torture. Greek law must also formally accept male rape as a legal concept (something that was unclear at the time of the assault and the initial trial. We also had confusing advice about whether this was defining in Greek law, but the EU judges make it very clear: what happened to me was both rape and torture). It has been a long, long struggle and much of it has been horrible. But there have also been many funny stories, particularly when we spoke to Greek authorities on the phone or even in person and they used ridiculous excuses to avoid taking responsibility. I can also think of many times when people in Athens were very kind to me and helped me through the worst times. We could certainly write a book about some of these stories!

But, I await a formal apology from the Greek president. I have written to request this again and again (and we will write again tomorrow) and I am appalled by his silence on this matter and by the utter rudeness of men in his office who have replied to none of my letters. What happened to me was done by men representing the state and wearing the uniform of Greece and it is clear that the Greek state (and a series of different governments) made a huge effort to hide their crimes. In the judgement, the Greek embassy [in London] rightly comes in for specific criticism. The issues are evasion, indifference and corruption. The last ten years have been very, very frustrating and this is in addition to the experience of torture I suffered in Crete. I also await an apology from the Greek Church for the ill-advised statements by [now deceased] Archbishop Christodoulous that followed my request for help.”