Today in a long awaited decision the Criminal Chamber of the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) issued a decision quashing "in its entirety" the decision of November 22, 2004 of the Investigative chamber of the Paris Court of appeal in the case of the "Disappeared of the Beach". The Supreme Court remitted the case to the Court of Versailles (near Paris) thereby ordering it to resume jurisdiction over this case paving the way to the reopening of an investigation.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the French League for Human Rights (LDH) and the Congolese Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) welcome this decision which allows the victims to claim justice and reparation before an independent tribunal in contrast to the sham proceedings before the Brazzaville Criminal chamber leading on August 17, 2005 to the acquittal of all the defendants.
Since the beginning of the case, FIDH, LDH and OCDH have spoken out against the interference of the French political powers in the justice system leading in particular to the release of Jean-François NDENGUE, director of the Congolese police, in the middle of the night of April 2 and 3, 2004 from the Paris prison. Furthermore, the investigative judge decided to request and audition before the Magistrate’s disciplinary body (Conseil Supérieur de la Magistrature) to explain the pressures he received in the course of his investigation.
Today’s decision of the French highest court demonstrates the importance of the separation of powers, the fundamental principle of independent justice. The Supreme Court confirms that the French courts have jurisdiction to prosecute the alleged perpetrators of torture at the Beach of Brazzaville between April and May 1999 on the basis of universal jurisdiction.
FIDH, LDH and OCDH recall that the investigation had been ongoing for more than two years allowing vital pieces of evidence and testimonies to be gathered which established the responsibility of high level Congolese officials. The investigation can now proceed.
"This decision represents a major victory for victims of torture and enforced disappearances in Congo Brazzaville whose right to justice had been refused before of raison d’Etat" declared Patrick Baudouin lawyer of the victims and Honorary President of FIDH.