Republic of Congo: Torture, political persecution and attacks on trade union freedoms

Press release
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FIDH and OCDH have published a position paper highlighting the deteriorating situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Republic of Congo. This report details evidence such as torture cases, attacks on people close to Colonel Marcel Ntsourou (accused of organising explosion at a munitions depot in Brazzaville, in March 2012), and the repression of teacher trade union leaders during the teachers’ strike.

The Congolese authorities should immediately stop harassing trade union activists and must respect legal procedures concerning colonel Marcel Ntsourou and his family, said Trésor Nzila, OCDH Executive Director.

The report shows how the Congolese authorities use the justice system for political ends, inflict torture and ill-treatment in detention and criminalize social protest to strike down any form of opposition.

Torture and ill-treatment are strictly prohibited by the UN Convention against torture to which Congo is a party. This Convention obliges the authorities to prosecute those responsible for these violations, said Paul Nsapu, FIDH Secretary General. The government must stop repressing teacher trade union activists. They are only peacefully defending workers’ rights. The government must also stop harassing political opponents, he added.

Download the position paper "Republic of the Congo: Torture, Political Persecution and Attacks on Trade Union Freedoms"

From 6 to 30 January 2014, teacher trade unions (the Coalition for Improving the Teaching Profession (Concertation pour la revalorisation de la profession d’enseignants – CPRE) and the Coordination of Free Teachers’ Unions of Congo (Coordination syndicale libre des enseignants du Congo – COSYLEC) called for a general strike in the education sector to protest against the adoption of measures contrary to agreements concluded with the government. Since the strike started, union members have found themselves direct targets of harassment and intimidation by the government. This situation has pushed some people underground and led to the suspension of the movement.

Colonel Marcel Ntsourou was formerly the number two man in the State’s intelligence services and deputy secretary general of the National Security Council. He is accused of having organized an explosion at the munitions depot in Mpila military camp, in Brazzaville on 4 March 2012, which killed almost 350 people, injured 1200 and affected many others. On 9 September 2013, Colonel Ntsourou received a suspended sentence of five years of hard labour and was placed under house arrest. In a July 2013 interview, he stated that he could prove the involvement of the military high command and the President of the Republic in the execution and the disappearances of 353 people in the affair known as the Brazzaville Beach disappearances in 1999. On 16 December 2013, clashes took place between Congolese armed forces (FAC) and members of Colonel Ntsourou’s personal guard at his Brazzaville residence. Between 20 and 42 people lost their lives and a dozen were injured. The Colonel ultimately surrendered to the police and was taken into custody. On 21 January 2014, his lawyers lodged a complaint against unknown persons alleging various offences related to his arrest.

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