DRC: Imminent Verdict in the Chebeya/Bazana Trial

Illustration: Rash Brax

Paris-Geneva-Kinshasa, 22 March 2022 — Pleas of the victims’ lawyers in the reopening of the trial on the double murder of human rights defenders, Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana, ended at the beginning of March. The verdict in this case is expected on Friday, 25 March 2022. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (International Federation for Human Rights - FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture - OMCT), African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (Asadho), the Lotus Group (GL) and the League of Voters (LE) are calling for all the people cited in the reopening of the trial to be subpoenaed, including General John Numbi who is at large and considered to be the mastermind behind these acts.

On Friday 25 March 2022, the High Military Court at the Ndolo Prison in Kinshasa must reach a verdict in the case of the double murder on 1 June 2010 of human rights defenders, Floribert Chebeya, executive director of de La Voix des sans-voix (VSV) [The Voice of those with No Voice] and member of the General Assembly of the OMCT, and Fidèle Bazana, his driver and also a member of the VSV.

To date, and over 11 years after the events, only a farce of a trial has taken place: out of the eight police officers prosecuted at the trial phase, five had been convicted on 23 June 2011 by the Military Tribunal of Kinshasa-Gombe, only to have four of them be acquitted in an appeal and the fifth, Colonel Daniel Mukalayi, to have his sentence reduced on 17 September 2015. Since then, the families of the victims and Congolese civil society organisations have been waiting for justice to finally be done.

The revelations made in February 2021 by Hergile Ilunga and Alain Kayeye, two police officers currently in exile who appear to be two perpetrators of these crimes, and the arrest of Christian Ngoy in September 2020, made it possible to reopen the trial before the High Military Court. The hearings began on 22 September 2021 and lasted until early March 2022. Throughout these hearings, several police officers, including all those convicted in the trial phase and the informers, were heard by the Congolese justice system. Among them was Paul Mwilambwe, the main witness to the events, who is back in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after more than 10 years on the run.

Moreover, a complaint had been filed in 2010 with the Congolese justice system by Floribert Chebeya’s widow against former DRC President, Joseph Kabila, and his right-hand man and Inspector General of the Congolese National Police (PNC), General John Numbi Banza Tambo, considered to be the mastermind of these acts in the same case and currently at large. Subsequent to new arrests and revelations made in the case, the victims’ lawyers filed a second complaint in October 2020 and the case was transferred to the High Military Court to open a new trial. An international warrant for the arrest of John Numbi has been issued by the Military Prosecutor’s Office of the DRC and transmitted to Interpol.

The victims’ lawyers filed a revocation application on 16 March 2022 concerning John Numbi of the Congolese armed forces so that the High Military Court could be in a position to try him if he were to be apprehended. Indeed, as he is still a general in the Congolese army, he is currently too highly ranked to be tried by military jurisdictions, as no magistrate has a rank superior to his.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT), Asadho, the Lotus Group and the League of Voters have welcomed the reopening of the trial and reiterated their appeal for transparent and impartial justice, an end to years of impunity in this case, and appropriate reparations measures with respect to the victims.

Our organisations are also calling for the people, including John Numbi, cited during the reopening of this trial to be subpoenaed. Therefore, our organisations are calling for the granting of the revocation application concerning John Numbi by the Congolese authorities so that, if apprehended, he can be summoned before the competent jurisdictions.

For more information on the facts underlying this case and how the judicial proceedings are unfolding, go to our Q/A on the Chebeya/Bazana case on the FIDH and OMCT website.

The mission of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of the FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is to protect human rights defenders who are victims of violations and provide them with the most concrete assistance possible. The OMCT and FIDH are members of ProtectDefenders.eu, European Union’s mechanism for human rights defenders implemented by international civil society.

Asadho, created in 1991, is pursuing the goals of protection, promotion and safeguarding of individual and collective rights and freedoms; of respect for the primacy of law and the independence of Justice with a view to consolidating the Rule of law, the base of any democratic society; and working to contribute to heightening awareness about human rights. Asadho is a member of the FIDH and the OMCT.

The Lotus Group is a non-governmental organization based in Kisangani. It denounces human rights violations, alerts public opinion, and investigates the practices of the authorities to force rulers to respect the Rule of law. It supports those who are suffering from discrimination and oppression based on their belonging to a social, national or religious group or on their political opinion. It informs on, teaches and promotes human rights values and democratic principles to make progress in this area in DRC. The Lotus Group is a member of the FIDH and the OMCT.

The mission of the League of Voters (LE), created in 1990, is to support democratic development, namely through protection of human rights and promotion of election culture. The League provides training for members of civil society associations as a facilitator of the democratic movement; human rights outreach activities; international assessment and election observation missions. The League of Voters is a member of the FIDH.

Read more
statement