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Arbitrary arrest and detention of 13 human rights defenders and LUCHA members

Status: 
Arrested
About the situation

On 13 November 2021, 13 human rights defenders and LUCHA members were violently and arbitrarily arrested during a peaceful protest in Beni by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the police. The human rights defenders had been peacefully expressing their indignation at the concerning security situation in Beni-Ituri. The defenders are being detained at the Kangbayi prison without being charged.

About the HRD

LUCHA is a non-violent and non-partisan youth civil society movement founded in June 2012 in Goma, North Kivu. The movement advocates for social justice and accountability in DRC through campaigns, and encourages Congolese citizens to fight for the promotion and respect of human rights.

9 December 2021
Arbitrary arrest and detention of 13 human rights defenders and LUCHA members

On 13 November 2021, 13 human rights defenders and LUCHA members were violently and arbitrarily arrested during a peaceful protest in Beni by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the police. The human rights defenders had been peacefully expressing their indignation at the concerning security situation in Beni-Ituri. The defenders are being detained at the Kangbayi prison without being charged.

Daniel Dimanja Dany, Archimede Ependa, Kasereka Liko Esai, Kasonia Lwatumba Elyse, Kasereka Kabunga Joel, Paluku Kighoma Dieumerci, Erick Sankara, Pamela Shabani, Kabambi Jireh, Georges Mumbere, Muhindo Lufungula Jeanpy, Paluku Vihamba, Muhindo Mupika Eddy are human rights defenders and members of the organization Lutte pour le Changement (Fight for Change – LUCHA). LUCHA is a non-violent and non-partisan youth civil society movement founded in June 2012 in Goma, North Kivu. The movement advocates for social justice and accountability in DRC through campaigns, and encourages Congolese citizens to fight for the promotion and respect of human rights.

On 13 November 2021, the 13 human rights defenders and LUCHA members were violently and arbitrarily arrested while peacefully demonstrating against the concerning security situation in Beni-Ituri, where at least 672 civilians have been killed by unidentified armed groups from May to September 2021. They were also denouncing the ineffectiveness of the current state of siege and asking the parliament not to vote for its extension. Despite not being formally charged nor brought before a judge, the defenders were accused by the Mayor of Beni of violating the state of siege declared in the North-Kivu region and inciting civil desobedience. The human rights defenders are still unlawfully detained at the Kangbayi prison. The conditions there are very poor with three defenders currently sick, with sustained injuries and in need of medical attention. They are all detained in the same cell with other imates amid the COVID 19 pandemic.

This is not the first time that LUCHA members have faced reprisals for their peaceful human rights work. From 2020 to December 2021, over 19 LUCHA members were arbitrarily arrested and detained while 2 were killed by security forces during peaceful demonstrations. LUCHA members and human rights defenders Parfait Muhani and Ghislain Muhiwa were released on 6 November 2021, after spending respectively 4 and 3 months in arbitrary detention.

Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern for the arbitrary detention of the 13 LUCHA members and the charges against them, as it strongly believes that this is directly linked to their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities of DRC to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defenders Daniel Dimanja Dany, Archimede Ependa, Kasereka Liko Esai, Kasonia Lwatumba Elyse, Kasereka Kabunga Joel, Paluku Kighoma Dieumerci, Erick Sankara, Pamela Shabani, Kabambi Jireh, Georges Mumbere, Muhindo Lufungula Jeanpy, Paluku Vihamba, Muhindo Mupika Eddy;

  2. Cease all further harassment towards LUCHA members;

  3. Ensure that the treatment of the 13 human rights defenders while in detention adheres to the conditions set out in the ‘Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment', adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;

  4. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in DRC are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.