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NAVI PILLAY: TRIAL FOR MURDER OF DRC HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER MUST RESPECT DUE PROCESS
17 July 2012

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday called for the appeal trial in the case of the murder of Congolese human rights defender Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, and the disappearance of his driver, Fidèle Bazana Edadi, to fully respect international standards of due process.

“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 2 June 2010 on the outskirts of Kinshasa. On 23 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 United Nations Human Rights office stood ready to provide assistance to the Congolese authorities to this end.

UN Human Rights country page – DR Congo: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZRIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva:
Rupert Colville: +41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org
Ravina Shamdasani: +41 22 917 9310 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org

In Kinshasa:
Scott Campbell: +243(0)81 89 0 6112 / irene@un.org

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For use of information media; not an official record
HC12/52E