DRC: Judicial harassment against Filimbi members

Press release
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Members of the “#MyVoteMustCount” Coalition are concerned by the outcome of the trial against two members of the citizens movement “Filimbi” (a member of the Coalition), that resumed on 26 June 2015, at Makala prison, in Kinshasa. These two activists were accused of “attacks against the internal security of the State” because of their efforts to increase public awareness of the importance of the 2016 elections in DRC.

Our organizations are concerned about recurrent violations of the rights of pro-democratic activists and human rights defenders in DRC and call for the release of the Filimbi members and other defenders detained.

On 26 June 2015, at 9 am, another hearing of the lawsuit filed by the Kinshasa-Gombe High Court Public Prosecutor’s Office against Yves Makwambala and Freud Bauma, two activists of “Filimbi,” a peaceful citizens movement, was opened. They have been charged with “violating State security for belonging”, according to the Public Prosecutor, “to an association or an organized group called Filimbi Ekoki created for the purpose of attacking the life or the person of the Head of State, changing, disrupting, or destroying the constitutional regime, weaken the fidelity that the citizens owe to the State.” Four other Filimbi activists Kiakwama Kia Kiziki, Floribert Anzuluni, Ben Kabamba and Horli Ndjoli, sought by the security services, are accused of the same offences and prosecuted for the same charges.

During the hearing of Yves Makwambala and Freud Bauma, the two defence lawyers, Georges Kapiamba and Sylvain Lumu, said that the trial could not start on the grounds put forth available and denounced the procedural errors. They disputed the validity of the official records drawn up by the DRC National Intelligence Agency (Agence Nationale de Renseignements, ANR) whereas the two defendants had no access to legal assistance, a right which is guaranteed by the Congolese constitution, and demanded their invalidation. The Defense argued that the NAR agents had violated article 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and articles 18 and 19 of the DRC Constitution, which guarantee the right to be informed of the charges, to be allowed to enter into contact with one’s family immediately, to benefit from legal assistance of one’s choice in all steps of the proceedings and to be detained in a manner that protects one’s health and human dignity.

The members of the #MyVoteMustCount Coalition emphasised that access to legal assistance in all steps of the legal proceedings is essential and ensures the protection of the defendants against the physical or mental torture used to extract confessions and ensures that the statements contained in the official records faithfully and accurately reflect the defendants’ answers. The Coalition denounces the violations of the democratic activists’ rights and urges the Congolese authorities to release the two activists immediately and unconditionally.

The hearing was finally suspended on Friday 26 June and the judge declared that he would decide on the validity of the records within eight days. The five activists risk being sentenced to somewhere between 10 years in prison and the death penalty. It is crucial for the Congolese judicial authorities to assert their independence, resist political pressure and guarantee the rights set out in the Constitution and international covenants on human rights that have been ratified by the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The #MyVoteMustCount Coalition supported by more than 100 African civil society organizations condemns the political nature of the trial which adds to the criminalization of the citizen actions to promote respect for the democratic values in DRC and demand that the judicial proceedings against Filimbi activists and other human rights’ defenders be dropped, reacted the Coalition organisations.

On 15 March 2015, the security services interrupted the press conference held by Filimbi at the Eloko Makasi production company in the village of Masina. About 30 members of the Congolese citizen movements Filimbi and Lucha, (including Yves Makwambala and Freud Bauma), the Senegalese movement, Y’en a marre and the Burkinabé movement, Le balai citoyen, were arrested. After several days of detention, the foreign activists were expelled, but Yves Makwambala and Freud Bauma were held in communicado by the national intelligence agency (ANR) for a month and half.

On 19 June, the Ivorian singer Tiken Jah Fakoly, who was scheduled to give a concert in Kinshasa was turned back upon arrival at the Kinshasa airport. The artist felt it was an act of censorship as he is well known for his positions in support of democratic principles.

In January 2015, the bloody repression of the peaceful protest march against the adoption of an draft electoral law killed at least 42 people and wounded dozens more in Kinshasa and several other large cities throughout DRC.

The draft law was finally withdrawn. It required a population census to be taken prior to the organization of any and all legislative and presidential elections, thus in fact postponing the next presidential elections for several months and even for several years. Theoretically Joseph Kabila, who has been president since 2001, is not eligible to run again.

“My vote must count”
Between 2015 and 2017 53 elections including 29 presidential elections, will take place in 33 African countries. To avoid manipulation, fraud and violence resulting from flawed elections, and at the initiative of the FIDH, over 100 African and international civil society organizations have decided to mobilize within the “Myvotemustcount” Coalition which, through public rallies, a series of field actions and political advocacy before each election until 2017, calls on governments to respect the legitimate right of the people to freely choose their representatives in regular, free and transparent elections.

Member organizations of the #MyVoteMustCount Coalition in DRC

Filimbi – Citizens movement
Lucha – Citizens movement
FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
ANMDH – Friends of Nelson Mandela for the defence of human rights
ASADHO – African Association for the defence of Human Rights
GL – Lotus Goup
LE – League of Electors
OCDH – Congolese Observatory for Human Rights
OSD – Œuvres sociales pour le développement
Anges du ciel
ACAJ – Congolese association pour access to justice
VSV – Voice of the Voiceless
LICOF – Congolese League against corruption and fraud
Justicia Asbl
CDH – Committee for Human Rights

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