Another human rights defender is killed

Urgent Appeal

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their profound dismay over the killing of Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo, coordinator of the National Network for the Observation of Elections (Réseau national d’observation des élections - RENOSEC) for the region of Western Kasai, and head of the Centre for Training and Popular Education (Centre de formation et d’éducation populaire - CEFOP).

According to the information received, Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo was run over on November 9, 2005, in Mbuji-Mayi, by a car of the rapid response police (Police d’intervention rapide - PIR) that deviated sharply from its route to hit him. Mr. Mpoyi Ngongo was killed outright due to the violence of the shock. He was going to his office on his moped by his usual route when he received a call on his mobile phone, which turned out to come from an unknown number. Mr. Mpoyi Ngongo was run over while he had stopped at the pavement to answer this call.

Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo had been threatened and intimidated by PIR officers. In particular, on the day he was killed and for three days before, officers from the PIR were regularly posted on guard around his home in Mbuji-Mayi, and carried out a number of patrols there. In addition, on November 7, 2005, Mr. Mpoyi Ngongo had been followed by officers of the PIR. He had then told his colleagues that he felt he was in danger.

Mr. Kanku Kabengela, governor of Kasai Oriental, was first to arrive at the scene of the killing, and in his presence, three human rights activists, who had come to ensure the police procedures were correct, were arrested on the orders of Major Israel Kantu, the head of the police special services. They were released a few hours later without charge, but to date they are still under pressure from the local authorities.

Mr. Mpoyi Ngongo had repeatedly condemned the increasing insecurity and human rights violations in the Kasai Oriental province and had an informal discussion about this with Mr. Kanku Kabengela when they were flying back from Kinshasa on November 6, 2005.

Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo was committed to the promotion of human rights and civic education at CEFOP and was a member of the Christian Inspired Network of Human Rights and Civic Education Organisations (Réseau d’organisations des droits humains et d’éducation civique d’inspiration chrétienne - RODHECIC). He was also one of the main supporters of RENOSEC, which was set up to supervise the regularity of the electoral process in the DRC. In particular, he was working on the possible involvement of the authorities in the killing of Mr. Leonard Mukendi Kabongo, a lawyer and member of the Mbuji-Mayi Bar, who was killed during the night of October 30-31, 2005. The inquest into his killing is underway (following this killing, the Bar submitted a complaint; all of the lawyers in the town refused to defend the two alleged perpetrators of this crime, believing that the charges against them were fabricated by the authorities in order to protect the real perpetrators).

The Observatory notes that these events happened in the light of a sharp deterioration in the situation of human rights defenders in the DRC and of growing tension between the different political actors due to the prolongation of the period of transition.

Thus, the killing of Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo follows the murder in Bakavu on July 31, 2005 of Mr. Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi, executive secretary of the NGO Heirs of Justice (Héritiers de la Justice), and a member of the Human Rights League in the Great Lakes region. The commission of inquiry set up by the authorities has not given yet its conclusions (see Urgent Appeal of the Observatory RDC 005/0805/OBS 059).

Moreover, many human rights defenders are or have been subjected to threats of death or assault, like Mr. Paul Nsapu, president of the League of Electors (Ligue des électeurs - LE), principal coordinator of RENOSEC and organiser of the Public Network for the Observation of Demonstrations and Freedoms (Réseau d’observation des manifestations et des libertés publiques) (see Urgent Appeal of the Observatory RDC 006/0905/OBS 078); Mr. Dismas Kitenge Senga, president of the Lotus Group, a human rights NGO based in Kisangani, and the driving force behind the Collective of Human Rights Associations, whose home was set on fire by unknown persons during the night of September 22-23, 2005 (see Urgent Appeal of the Observatory RDC 004/0705/OBS 051.1); the Chirezi Foundation that was attacked on October 5, 2005 in Uvira, and whose president, Mr. Floribert Kazingufu, had to flee for fear of reprisals (see Urgent Appeal of the Observatory RDC 007/1005/OBS 101); or the members of the African Association of Human Rights (Association africaine des droits de l’Homme - ASADHO) in Katanga, in particular Mr. Golden Misabiko, honorary president of ASADHO/Katanga, and Mr. Amigo Ngonde, ASADHO national president, who were attacked on May 16, 2005 (see Urgent Appeal of the Observatory RDC 002/0505/OBS 034).

The Observatory calls on the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to guarantee under any circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of human rights defenders in the DRC and to ensure that impartial and independent inquiries be conducted into the killings of Mr. Polycarpe Mpoyi Ngongo and Mr. Leonard Mukendi Kabongo, so that the perpetrators are identified, arrested and duly punished. More generally, the Observatory asks the Congolese authorities to conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to human rights regional and international instruments that have been ratified by the DRC.

Read more