The appeal trial in the murder case of Congolese human rights defender Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, and the disappearance of his driver, Fidèle Bazana Edadi, should fully respect international standards of due process, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said.
“The importance of this trial cannot be overstated. Mr. Chebeya was a pioneer of the human rights movement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and his murder sent a devastating blow to human rights defenders across the country,” Ms. Pillay said.
Mr. Chebeya was found assassinated on 2nd June 2010 on the outskirts of Kinshasa. On 23rd June 2011, the Military Court of Kinshasa/Gombe convicted five policemen, three of them in absentia, of murder, illegal arrest and detention as well as abduction.
The Inspector-General of the National Congolese Police was suspended in connection with the case in 2010, but was never formally charged. The next hearing of the ongoing appeal trial is scheduled to take place today.
“A number of due process issues have been raised about the original trial, including that key witnesses were not interviewed. I call on the Congolese judicial authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure that the appeal is fully in line with international standards of due process. Given the possible involvement of high-level authorities in these crimes, it would be advisable to appoint sufficiently high-ranking judges to preside over the trial.”
The High Commissioner also noted serious concerns about the security and proper preservation of important new information that has recently come to light. “Any evidence must be secured and preserved with great care,” she said.
Ms. Pillay noted that two years after Mr. Chebeya’s murder, the situation of human rights defenders in the DRC remains precarious. “The conduct of this case will be seen as a reflection of the new Government’s commitment to the independence of the judiciary and respect for due process.”
She also called on the new Parliament to adopt draft laws for the protection of human rights defenders as well as for the creation of an independent national human rights commission as soon as possible. She said the UN Human Rights office stood ready to provide assistance to the Congolese authorities to this end.