JOINT PUBLIC STATEMENT
Peaceful protest is not a crime, release the 13 LUCHA human rights defenders detained in Beni, North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.


Goma (RD Congo), 21 January 2022

We, the 35 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 demonstration 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 the LUCHA will once again be brought before the judge (garrison military tribunal) on Friday, January 21, 2022.

Prosecuted before the Beni Garrison 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 presented before the judge on January 7, 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, namely between five and twenty years of penal servitude, or worse life imprisonment.

Due to their poor conditions of detention, the health of one of the HRDs has seriously deteriorated. The HRD has been admitted to a local medical facility, but her condition remains alarming and requires adequate medical care.

The following signatory organisations 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 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.  

 


Spokespersons :

  • Primary (francophone): Deward Bushala, Protection officer PI DRC: dbushala [at] protectioninternational.org
  • Secondary (anglophone): Francis Ndegwa, Regional Advocacy Officer PI Afrique: francis.ndegwa [at] protectioninternational.org

 

Signatories:

  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 et ses 42 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 - Uganda
  33. Commission Justice & Paix - Belgium
  34. Centre national de cooperation au développement, CNCD-11.11.11 - Belgium
  35. EurAc - European Network for Central Africa