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DRC: One month of delay in the verdict of the 13 LUCHA defenders
Communiqué   modifié le 09-03-2022 11:28 par Tournons la Page

We, the undersigned organizations, express our dismay that the Military Tribunal of the garrison of Beni has not yet announced a verdict in the case of the 13 human rights defenders (HRDs) of the LUCHA (“Lutte pour le changement”) of Beni, North Kivu. According to the legal statutes, this verdict should have been rendered within 30 days of the final court hearing, i.e. February 8, 2022. This unjustified delay constitutes a violation of the 13 defenders' right to a fair trial and due process, as proclaimed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. We urge the Congolese authorities to drop the charges unconditionally and to release the 13 LUCHA HRDs, who have been deprived of their freedom for the past 4 months.

As a reminder, the 13 HRDs were arrested and detained on Thursday, November 11, 2021, while 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 are being tried under the military penal code, a process that has raised concerns about the potential severity of the military court's verdict. They are charged with insurrection, incitement to revolt, and disobedience of the law under Article 137 of the military penal code.

Due to the poor conditions of detention, the health of three of the LUCHA defenders has deteriorated sufficiently. They were admitted to a local medical facility, but their condition remains alarming and requires adequate medical care.

Since November 2021, national, regional and international civil society has been demanding the release of the 13 defenders. This case is part of a worrying increase in threats, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and killing of human rights defenders and artists in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, which have been under siege since May 2021. In January 2022, LUCHA accused Congolese security forces of killing Mumbere Ushindi, one of its defenders, during a demonstration.

Since the state of siege was declared, more than 21 LUCHA activists have been arrested. It is deplorable that the DRC is a country where human rights defenders are criminalized for their work. In September 2021, five UN special mandate holders wrote a letter to the Congolese government about the detention of LUCHA rights defenders, to which they received no official response.

These 13 defenders should never have been arrested. Peaceful protest is a right granted and guaranteed by Article 26 of the DR Congo constitution, and the right to defend human rights is universal. Furthermore, the 13 defenders must be recognized and protected as human rights defenders in accordance with the North Kivu edict on the protection of human rights defenders. The signatory organizations condemn the continued violations and suffering suffered by the 13 HRDs of the LUCHA of Beni and demand their immediate release.


Signatory organizations:

  1. Action 54 Soudan
  2. Actions et initiatives de développement pour la protection de la femme et de l'enfant (AIDPROFEN)
  3. Agir ensemble pour les droits humains (AEDH)
  4. African Association for the Defense of Human Rights (ASADHO)
  5. Association for Peace and Community Development (APADEC)
  6. Association for Development and Peasant Initiatives (ASSODIP)
  7. Broederlijk Delen
  8. Initiative Bunge Mashinani
  9. CNCD
  10. Coalition of Volunteers for Peace and Development (CVPD)
  11. Kenya Defenders Coalition
  12. Ethiopian Centre for Human Rights Defenders
  13. Haki Afrique
  14. IDAY-International
  15. Justice et Paix
  16. Kalkal Human Rights Development Organization (KAHRDO)
  17. The Coalition of Women Human Rights Defenders (CFDDH)
  18. Lliga dels Drets dels Pobles
  19. Coalition nationale des défenseurs des droits humains en Ouganda
  20. Ökumenische Netz Zentralafrika (ÖNZ)
  21. PAX
  22. Pax Christi International
  23. Protection et solidarité
  24. Protection international
  25. Protection International Afrique
  26. South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network
  27. Synergy of Women for Peace and Reconciliation of the Peoples of the Great Lakes of Africa (SPR)
  28. Synergie Ukingo Wetu (SUWE)
  29. Tournons La Page RDC
  30. Women Human Rights Defenders Hub in Kenya