We, the 32 signatory organizations, urge the Congolese authorities to release the 13 human rights defenders (HRDs) of LUCHA, arbitrarily detained in the town of Beni after having organized a peaceful demonstration denouncing the killings of civilians in this part of the Province of North Kivu. These 13 HRDs have been deprived of their rights and freedoms for two months, even though the right to peaceful protest is recognized and guaranteed by the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in its article 26.
The HRDs were arrested and detained in the Beni prison on Thursday, November 11, 2021, while they were organizing a peaceful demonstration to denounce the repeated killings and massacres of civilians that persist despite the proclamation of a state of siege in the Province of North Kivu and in the Province of Ituri. The 13 HRDs of LUCHA will once again be brought before the judge (garrison military court) on Friday, January 21, 2022.
Prosecuted before the Beni Military Tribunal under RP 2136 for insurrection, incitement to revolt and disobedience to the law, acts provided for and punished by article 137 of the military penal code, the HRDs were brought before the judge on 7 January 2022. After their identification, the Court postponed the case to the hearing of Friday, January 21, 2022 for the beginning of the investigation.
If the charges against these activists are confirmed, these HRDs face serious penalties of between five and twenty years of penal servitude, or worse, life imprisonment.
Due to their poor conditions of detention, the health condition of one of the HRDs has seriously deteriorated. The HRD was admitted to a local medical facility, but her condition remains alarming and requires adequate medical care.
The following signatory organizations express their deep concern about the increase in threats, intimidation and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders and artists in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, under a state of siege since May 2021. These practices constitute serious human rights violations and are not consistent with the rule of law advocated by the Congolese government.
Since the state of siege was declared, more than 21 LUCHA activists have been arrested. Two have been provisionally released while another, fearing for his safety, has been forced to go into hiding. From January to November 2021, the United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) documented 6,469 human rights violations throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The signatory organizations strongly condemn the restriction of civic space in the provinces under siege and encourage Congolese authorities at all levels to listen carefully to the distress calls of civil society activists and citizens.
Francophone Spokesperson: Deward Bushala, PI DRC Protection Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Anglophone spokesperson: Francis Ndegwa, PI Africa Advocacy Officer: email@example.com
1. Protection International
2. Protection international Afrique
3. Coalition des femmes défenseures des droits humains du Nord-Kivu et Sud-Kivu et ses 42
organisations membres– RDC
4. APADEC – RDC
5. Africa Women Justice Hub – Kenya
6. Women HRDs Hub –Kenya
7. Kalkal Human Rights Development Organization – Somalia
8. Haki Africa – Kenya
9. Action 54 – South Sudan
10. Defenders Coalition – Kenya
11. Bunge Mashinani Initiative – Kenya
12. Ethiopia Human Rights Defenders Centre – Ethiopia
13. Réseaux des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale – Cameroon
14. Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition – Tanzania
15. Free Press Unlimited – Netherlands
16. South Sudan HRDs Network – South Sudan
17. European Network for Central Africa
18. Coalition des Volontaires pour la Paix et le Développement (CVPD) – RDC
19. Groupe d’Action de Défense des Droits Humains et de la paix (GADHOP) – RDC
20. Association pour le développement et initiatives paysannes (ASSODIP) – RDC
21. Protection et Solidarité – RDC
22. RPDHVT– RDC
23. Lliga dels Drets dels Pobles (LDP)
24. Réseau VIWINE –RDC
25. Groupe Ukingo wa watetezi (GRUWA) avec ses 45 membres – RDC
26. Tournons La Page
27. South Africa Human Rights Defenders Network – South Africa
28. West Africa Human Rifhts Defenders Network - Togo
29. Association africaine de défense des droits de l'homme (ASADHO) – RDC
30. REPRODEV – RDC
31. Action congolaise pour le respect des droits humains – RDC
32. National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders Uganda - Ouganda