Call to respect human rights workers

Friday, June 18, 2010

Following a violent attack on Emmanuel Lubala Mugisho, President of leading Congolese human rights organisation Heritiers de la Justice, ACT member Christian Aid is appealing to the international community for increased protection for human rights activists and greater support to the Congolese authorities to bring perpetrators to justice and end the cycle of violence.

Lubala, who is also a provincial deputy in South Kivu and a reverend in the CEPAC protestant church, was robbed and threatened with death by three gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday morning at his family home in Bukavu town, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The death threat comes less than a week after another prominent Congolese human rights activist, Floribert Chebeya, was found dead in the backseat of his car in a suburb of Kinshasa. Chebeya’s driver Fidèle Bazana, also a human rights activist, has been missing since then.

‘Christian Aid is deeply concerned by the ongoing attacks and threats against our partners and other Congolese human rights activists,’ says Shuna Keen, Christian Aid’s Great Lakes analyst. ‘The attack on Lubala immediately set off alarm bells, given the well-established trend of targeted assassination of journalists and human rights activists in the DRC’.

‘Such crimes constitute a threat to human rights and the entire state-building process in the DRC. Civil society plays a unique and essential role in upholding accountability and helping to establish the rule of law, documenting and denouncing violations, and increasing awareness of civic and human rights at all levels’.

ACT member Christian Aid calls on the UK government, the EU, and other international donors in the DRC to support an independent enquiry into the death of Chebeya, and to press for those responsible for the attacks against Lubala to be identified and held to account.

Christian Aid also appeals to the international community to draw up a common plan for the implementation of the EU Guidelines for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the DRC. Donors should also put in place an emergency fund for human rights activists and their families, aimed at assisting them in situations of immediate risk and following an assault.

This week’s attack on Lubala is sadly not the first time that senior staff at Christian Aid partner Heritiers de la Justice have been threatened and attacked. The organisation’s late secretary general, Pascal Kabungulu, was murdered almost five years ago in Bukavu. The perpetrators have never been brought to justice following the suspension of the military tribunal set up in November 2005.

‘The lack of justice for Kabungulu’s murder has set an unfortunate precedent, and these latest attacks on Lubala and the murder of Chebeya should be understood in this light,’ says Keen.

‘We believe that the reopening of judicial proceedings relating to Kabungulu’s death would significantly contribute towards ending the corrosive and pervasive culture of injustice in the DRC.’