Open Letter to the guests of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the DRC

Without truth about the assassination of Mr. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and the disappearance of Mr. Fidèle Bezana Edadi, and without concrete action from the Congolese authorities to protect human rights defenders, your presence at the 50th anniversary of the independence of the DRC would represent a blow for the calls for human rights in this country

Paris - Geneva, June 10, 2010

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), remains strongly shocked about the assassination early June 2010 of Mr. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, a prominent Congolese human rights defender, and about the disappearance of his driver, Mr. Fidèle Bazana Edadi.

In recent years, the Observatory has repeatedly alerted the international community about the real death threats posed by the systematic campaign of denigration orchestrated by the Congolese authorities against all human rights defenders in a country where impunity is the rule and security services are extremely powerful.

The investigation into these crimes, which has recently led to the arrest of several officers and to the suspension of the Head of the National Congolese Police, does not meet with the requirements of independence asked by the victims’ families and by human rights organisations. We are deeply concerned with the fact that the authorities might seek to promptly close the case before the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the country scheduled for June 30, 2010, by stigmatising the responsibility of a few subordinates without shedding light on the circumstances and on the responsible for these crimes.

The Observatory has deeply welcomed the numerous condemnations by the international community regarding these outrageous crimes. However, the Observatory considers that your presence at the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), without previous concrete response from the Congolese authorities to shed light on these crimes, and in favour of an effective protection of the rights of human rights defenders, would represent a blow for human rights in the country.

Therefore, the Observatory believes that before considering to answer to the invitation of President Kabila to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the DRC, you should call for strong actions to be taken, in particular :

- to immediately establish an independent[1], credible and transparent commission of inquiry in order to clarify the circumstances of the assassination of Mr. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and the disappearance of Mr. Fidèle Bazana Edadi, as well as to identify all responsibilities;

- to allow the peaceful expression of solidarity demonstrations towards Messrs. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and Fidèle Bazana Edadi, which are currently organised on the whole territory, and banned;

- to organise a roundtable bringing together the representatives of Congolese authorities, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), diplomatic missions in the DRC and representatives of non-governmental human rights organisations, in order to take concrete measures and have them regularly assessed by all above-mentioned actors in terms of protection of human rights defenders in the DRC;

- to allow, as wished by his family, the organisation of the funerals of Mr. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire in calm and safety, at the moment of the celebration of the independence of the DRC, and your participation to this event.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into account,

We remain,

Souhayr BELHASSEN Eric SOTTAS

FIDH President OMCT Secretary General

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