Congo (DRC):Government must investigate activist's death
The Congolese government must immediately launch a thorough, impartial and independent investigation into the death of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, one of the country’s leading human rights activists, Amnesty International said today [3 June].
Floribert Chebeya was found dead on Wednesday (2 June) after being summoned by the police in Kinshasa on Tuesday. He was the executive director of one of Congo’s largest human rights organisations Voix des Sans Voix (VSV) and of the national network of human rights groups.
Amnesty International’s Africa Deputy Director, Veronique Aubert said:
“We are stunned and appalled by the suspicious death of such a prominent and respected human rights defender. Floribert has been arrested and harassed by the authorities in the past. It seems he may have paid the ultimate price for his valuable work.”
Mr Chebeya told Amnesty on several occasions that he felt he had been followed and that he was under surveillance by the security services.
On Tuesday 1 June, Mr Chebeya received a telephone call asking him to go to General Inspectorate of Police’s office in Ligwala, Kinshasa.
Mr Chebeya was in phone contact with his family until just after 9pm on that day. Just before 8pm he sent a text message to relatives saying he had not yet met with Numbi but was still waiting at the Inspectorate.
His last message said he was leaving the Inspectorate and stopping briefly at the University on the way home. His body was found by passers by early on Wednesday 2 June in a suburb close to his home.
Veronique Aubert continued:
“Floribert’s death is a great loss for the human rights community. The government must urgently investigate this cold blooded murder and prosecute those responsible. Those who defend the rights of others must be allowed to continue their work free of harassment and persecution.”
Amnesty International has observed in the past year increased oppression of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including by illegal arrest, prosecution, phone threats, repeated summoning to the offices of the intelligence services.