Posted 2007/9/21

DRC: Attack on the family of womens human rights defender Justine Masika Bihamba

Front Line is gravely concerned at the attack of the women human rights defender Justine Masika Bihamba’s family in Goma, on the evening of 18 September 2007 in Goma, in the Province of Northern Kivu. Justine Masika Bihamba is the President of the non-governmental organisation Synergie des femmes pour les victimes des violences sexuelles – SFVS.

===Further Information Posted 21/10/2007 On the evening of 18 September 2007, at approximately 6.30pm, 6-armed men in army uniforms broke into the home of Justine Masika Bihamba. All of Justine’s 6 children were at home at the time of the break-in. The men proceeded to tie up members of her family who were in sitting room with belts. They then tied up her two daughters with an extension lead in another room, they questioned them about the whereabouts of their mother. The armed men attempted to rape both daughters: one was sexually assaulted and the other lost her tooth after being kicked in the face. The men then broke down the door leading to Justine’s bedroom and proceeded to search through all her documents.

Justine Masika Bihamba and her driver arrived at the gate of her home, one of the armed-men opened the gate, but when Justine saw the man, she asked the driver to reverse and drive away while she telephoned the military police asking for urgent assistance. The military police arrived at the scene in 15 minutes, during which time the armed men escaped. The police proceeded to set up roadblocks around the neighbourhood. The armed man apparently stole two items from Justine’s home, a mobile telephone and food.

At the time of the attack, Justine Masika Bihamba, the driver and one of her daughters succeeded in identifying 4 of the armed men as army guards working with Colonel Mosala who lives close by. Justine Masika Bihamba and her daughters were accompanied by a convoy of military police and agents from the police d’intervention rapide (PIR) to the home of the aforementioned Colonel, where they identified the 4 armed men as being the same men who had broken into their home and attacked the family. While they were at the house of Colonel Mosala, one of the army guards said the following to Justine in front of the military police and agents of the PIR: “do you think it would be a problem to kill you, it is not, we have already killed two people today”

None of the men have as yet been arrested. Justine Masika Bihamba has made a formal complaint to the Chef d’état-major of the Congolese Armed Forces in Goma.

Front Line is of the opinion that this break-in and attack of the family of Justine Masika Bihamba was an attempt to intimidate and cause harm to Justine and her family, and that they were targeted as a result of Justine’s peaceful human rights activities, specifically her work documenting and reporting on cases of sexual violence throughout Northern Kivu.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information