Our organizations remain deeply concerned by the situation of human rights defender Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana, who has been held incommunicado and arbitrarily since March 11 at the offices of the Central Intelligence and Documentation Department (CID), formerly the Directorate General of Territorial Surveillance in Brazzaville, on charges of "attempting to undermine internal state security", an offence regularly used by the Congolese authorities against activists. Our concerns also extend to journalist Raymond Malonga, publication director of the satirical newspaper "Sel-piment", arbitrarily detained in Brazzaville prison. The judicial authorities accuse him of having defamed the wife of Jean Dominique Okemba, head of the National Security Council. Our organizations are calling for their release.
On Thursday March 11, 2021, Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzaban was abducted in front of his home. He has since been detained on the premises of the Central Intelligence and Documentation Office, in violation not only of the laws and regulations in force in the Republic of Congo, but also of the international and regional conventions and treaties relating to human rights ratified by this country. In an urgent appeal dated March 11, 2021, our organizations demanded his immediate release. The situation of Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana has not changed since that appeal was issued, and his rights continue to be violated.
For more than 15 days now, we have had no direct news of Mr. Ibacka Dzabana. Neither his lawyer, who was appointed on March 12, nor his family or close friends have been able to contact him directly, even by visiting his place of detention. We are unaware of the conditions under which Mr. Ibacka Dzabana is being held, and would point out that his police arrest now exceeds the legal time limit in Congo, which is 5 days maximum, according to article 48 of the Congolese Code of Criminal Procedure. His detention is therefore arbitrary. Under Congolese law, a person in police custody has the right to be assisted by a lawyer from the preliminary investigation stage. The officer or agent of the judicial police is obliged to wait for the arrival of the assigned lawyer before proceeding to hearings or confrontations with the accused. Preventing the lawyer from assisting his client is a clear violation of Congolese law. This restriction also violates Article 7 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Furthermore, the March 12, 2021 referral of the case to the Public Prosecutor at the Brazzaville Court of Appeal, in his capacity as supervisor of the actions of judicial police officers under the Congolese Code of Criminal Procedure, has not put an end to the arbitrary detention of Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana. Aged 77, Mr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana has a serious health history, requiring regular medical treatment incompatible with arbitrary detention. Our fears are all the greater given that the Centrale d'intelligence et de documentation is reputed to be a place of ill-treatment, with several cases of torture having been reported there.
Journalist Raymond Malonga was arrested on February 2, 2021 on his hospital bed in Brazzaville, where he was being treated for a malaria attack. On the same day, he was placed under arrest for having published an article in his newspaper entitled: "Georgette Okemba, madame JDO did she embezzle 1 billion CFA francs from the public treasury? Under Congolese law, any person may be placed in police custody if there are one or more plausible grounds for suspecting that he or she has committed or attempted to commit a felony or misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment. However, Congolese law does not provide for custodial sentences for defamation except in very specific circumstances, which do not apply to this case. Moreover, under Congolese law, when the maximum penalty provided for by law in correctional matters is less than one year's imprisonment, an accused person domiciled in Congo may not be detained for more than 15 days after his first appearance before the examining magistrate (art.120 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). His arrest by agents of the CID in civil clothes is completely disproportionate and illegal in these conditions, when he is accused of simple acts of alleged defamation. Raymond Malonga suffers from a number of pathologies, and his continued detention in Brazzaville prison is neither humanly nor legally justifiable.
The illegal and arbitrary detentions of Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana and Raymond Malonga illustrate a situation that is more critical than ever in the Congo, characterized by an increase in attacks on fundamental freedoms by the national authorities, which could increase after the presidential election held on March 21, 2021, as international eyes turn away from the Congo. In view of the risks faced by human rights defenders and civil society actors in the broadest sense (pro-democracy activists, journalists, artists and other committed citizens), our organizations urge the Congolese authorities to:
- Immediately release Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana and Raymond Malonga;
- Respect the rights of defense of Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana and Raymond Malonga;
- Put an end to all attacks on human rights defenders, protect them and create conditions conducive to the conduct of their legitimate activities in defense of rights and freedoms;
- Guarantee respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, in line with the Republic of Congo's international and regional commitments.
We ask the Republic of Congo's international partners to:
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the release of Dr. Alexandre Ibacka Dzabana and Raymond Malonga by the Congolese authorities;
- Call on the Congolese authorities to address the situation of human rights defenders and demand an end to all attacks against them;
- Strengthen their action and mechanisms to contribute to the protection of human rights defenders and civic space in the Congo.
Brazzaville, Lyon, Paris, Geneva, March 29th 2021
Agir ensemble pour les droits humains
Cinema For Peace and Democracy
FIDH, dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la Protection des Défenseurs des Droits de l'Homme
Observatoire congolais des Droits de l’Homme – OCDH
OMCT (Organisation mondiale contre la torture), dans le cadre de l’Observatoire pour la
Protection des Défenseurs des Droits de l'Homme
Plateforme des ONG des droits de l’Homme et de la démocratie (Rép. Congo)
Reporters Sans Frontières - RSF
Mouvement Ras Le Bol Congo
Tournons La Page