Activists arbitrarily arrested and break-in at human rights NGO
#Congo Détenu depuis le 24 février, nous sommes sans nouvelles de Nazaire Nkani, membre de la Commission Justice et Paix Brazzaville et de #Tournonslapage. Il était en charge du suivi budgétaire pour @PWYPtweets @Flomorice @caro_enilorac @amhauchard @mariamalagardis @TV5MONDEINFO https://t.co/drtIrp3cwo— TournonsLaPage (@TournonsLaPage) 1 maart 2018
In the past few weeks, several activists, human right defenders and trade unionists have been arbitrarily detained in the Republic of Congo. In particular, Commission Diocésaine Justice et Paix de Brazzaville (Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission of Brazzaville) alerted in a press statement that Nazaire Nkani had been detained. Nkani - a member of the Commission and coordinator of the budget monitoring activities of Publish What You Pay in his diocese - was taken on 24th February 2018 to the Departmental Directorate of Territorial Surveillance. The reason for the detention remains unknown.
According to a press statement from Observatoire Congolais des droits de l'Homme (Congolese Human Rights Observatory), authorities arrested Amour Anaclet Songou, president of Union Libre des Etudiants de la Faculté de Droit (a student union), on 15th February and held at the General Directorate of Territorial Surveillance. The arrest follows the publication of the student union's list of demands - Collectif Intersyndical des Etudiants de l’Université Marien Ngouabi - which include the payment of four trimesters of scholarships, and the promise to strike should the demands not be met.
In an open letter to President Denis Sassou Nguesso on 9th February, International Federation for Human Rights, Observatoire pour la Protection des Défenseurs des Droits de l’Homme and the World Organisation against Torture requested the unconditional release of human rights defender Noël Miananzambi Boyi, who has been in arbitrary detention since 21st January 2017. Miananzambi Boyi, president of Association pour la Culture de la Paix et de la Non-violence au Congo-Brazzaville, was arrested after he publicly denounced the violations he had witnessed during a mediation mission to the Pool region. His mission was to mediate between the authorities and the rebel chief Pastor Ntumi at the behest of the Prime Minister. However, he was later charged with "undermining the internal security of the state" for publishing and speaking out about what he saw. He currently remains in preventive detention without access to a lawyer.
Break-in at human rights organisation
Unidentified perpetrators broke into the offices of human rights organisation Rencontre pour la paix et les droits de l’homme (RPDH) in Pointe-Noir during the night of 8th March 2018. According to RPDH, six laptops, USB sticks, a camera, and a mobile phone were taken and RPDH suspects the break-in was in retaliation for its human rights activities. According to RPDH's press statement, the break-in also took place around the time of anonymous verbal threats towards HRDs being reported.
Joint civil society statement: "Torture and arbitrary detentions put freedom of expression under severe strain"
In a joint statement, Tournons la Page, Commission Justice et Paix Pointe Noire, Association pour les droits de l’homme et l’univers carcéral, Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale and Amnesty International declared that freedom of expression in the Republic of Congo is under serious strain, given the continued arbitrary detention of political opposition members and activists. The organisations have documented at least 40 cases of arrests of political activists from October 2015, when the constitutional referendum took place, through December 2016. The arrests were often made on charges of "incitement of public unrest" and "undermining internal security", although the opposition and activists were exercising their fundamental right to associate and assemble. Some of those arrested have reportedly suffered torture while in detention.
Laurent Duarte of Tournons la Page said:
"The international community, in particular the EU, can no longer ignore the repeated human rights violations in Congo, nor the lack of political will of its authorities to effectively combat impunity".
Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the deteriorating health of Talassa journalist and editor Ghys Fortuné Dombé Bemba, who currently languishes in prison. As previously reported on the Monitor, Fortuné Dombé Bemba was arbitrarily arrested on 11th January 2017 on charges of "complicity in interfering with internal security" because of an article published on senior leaders in the military, which included comments by former rebel leader Pastor Ntumi (also known as Frédéric Bintsamou), who is wanted by the authorities for acts of terrorism. The independent newspaper Talassa was "permanently banned" on 12th January 2017.
On 13th February, the prefect of Brazzaville banned a public meeting planned that day Société National d'Electricité (National Electrical Society) by Collège Syndical de Société National d'Electricité, a public enterprise that was dissolved by the government on 2nd February.