Demand the release of youth activists in DRC
By Rebecca Carr, committee member of the Children's Human Rights Network
Three young activists are being held in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for their suspected support of a general strike. The strike was called to protest against attempts to delay preparations for the 2016 general elections – which would extend President Kabila’s rule beyond the timeframe outlined in the Constitution of the country.
Two of the activists, Bienvenu Matumo and Marcel Héritier Kambale Kapitene, went missing in the early morning of 16 February in Kinshasa, just hours before the general strike. On the eve of their arrest, authorities arrested a third young activist, Victor Tesongo, who was helping the others prepare leaflets for the strike.
All three were held and denied communication with anyone for three days before being transferred to the Prosecutor’s Office in Gombe neighbourhood in Kinshasa on 19 February by security forces.
They are accused of ‘spreading rumours’, ‘incitement to disobedience’ and ‘undermining national security’. But they had simply been preparing to attend the strike.
Prisoners of conscience
We consider the activists to be prisoners of conscience – detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. And we know that they are at risk of ill-treatment, possibly torture, while in detention.
A wider crackdown in DRC
The arrest of the activists appears to have been part of an increased government crackdown on those speaking out against efforts to extend President Joseph Kabila’s extension of office beyond the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which ends in December 2016.
LUCHA is a youth movement whose members and sympathisers have consistently called for respect of the Constitution including timelines for general elections, and strict respect of the presidential term limits.
Trumped up charges have been placed against a number of activists in the DRC over the past year, seemingly to silence such dissent. It is understood that at least 19 other people are currently in jail in connection with LUCHA.
We’re asking you to write to the DRC authorities and demand that they immediately and unconditionally release these youth activists.
- Urge the Congolese authorities to drop all the charges against Bienvenu Matumo, Marcel Heriter, Kambale Kapitene and Victor Tesongo and immediately and unconditionally release them;
- Urge them to ensure that they are not subject to ill-treatment while in detention; and
- Call upon them to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
Appeals should be sent before 8 April 2016 to:
Minister of Justice
Monsieur Alexis Tambwe Mwamba
Ministry of Justice
228 Avenue de Lemera
Salutation: Honourable Minister
Minister of Interior and Security
Professor Evariste Boshab
Ministry of Interior and Security
Avenue Roi Baudoin
Salutation: Honourable Minister
And copies to:
His Excellency Augustin Matata Ponyo
Office of the Prime Minister
5 Avenue Roi Baudoin
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.