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Arrest and detention of seven human rights defenders

Status: 
Some members released, others detained
About the situation

On 6 March 2018, human rights defender and member of Filimbi Roger Katanga Mwenyemali was released without charge following more than 2 months in detention in Kindu general prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Five other members of Filimbi remain in detention, with serious concerns for their health.

On 29 and 30 December 2017, seven human rights defenders affiliated with the civil society movement Filimbi were arrested and detained and the whereabouts of another, Palmer Kabeya, are unknown.

About Filimbi

filimbi.jpgFilimbi promotes the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly as well as freedom of thought, working specifically with youth. The movement organises peaceful protests including sit-ins, demonstrations, debates and press conferences.

8 March 2018
Human rights defender Roger Katanga Mwenyemali released and acquitted, others remain in detention

On 6 March 2018, human rights defender and member of Filimbi Roger Katanga Mwenyemali was released without charge following more than 2 months in detention in Kindu general prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Five other members of Filimbi remain in detention, with serious concerns for their health.

Filimbi is a pro-democracy and civil society movement which advocates against poor governance and human rights abuses and for respect for the constitution of the DRC. Filimbi promotes the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly as well as freedom of thought, working specifically with youth. The movement organises peaceful protests including sit-ins, demonstrations, debates and press conferences. Carbone Beni overseesFilimbi's network, Mino Bompomi is the coordinator in Kinshasa, Palmer Kabeya is a member of the coordination team in Kinshasa, and Roger Katanga Mwenyemali, Grâce Tshiunza and Cedrick Kalonji are members of Filimbi.

On 6 March 2018, Roger Katanga Mwenyemali was acquitted by the second chamber of the High Court in Kindu of the charge of “breaching national security” and released from detention. The human rights defender was arrested on 29 December 2017 while publicising an upcoming protest organised by Catholic Church activists which took place on 31 December 2017. Protesters were demanding that President Kabila step down in line with constitutional term limits.

According to the constitution, there is a two-term presidential limit which ended for President Kabila in December 2016. Negotiations mediated by the Catholic Church led to an agreement on 31 December 2016 that President Kabila would not run for a third term, that there would be no change to the constitution or a referendum, and elections would be held by the end of 2017.

A number of other human rights defenders were arrested in connection with the pro-democracy protests on 31 December 2017 and 21 January 2018. On 30 December 2017, Carbone Beni, Mino Bompomi, Grâce Tshiunza and Cedrick Kalonji were arrested while informing the public in the commune of N’Djili about the upcoming peaceful protest. Two other human rights defenders and members of Filimbi, Arciel Beni and Bony Dickson Mputu, were also arrested and later released. Arciel Beni was acquitted on 31 December 2017 and Bony Dickson Mputu was released after three days in detention on 2 January 2018. The remaining human rights defenders in detention were not initially given access to their family or lawyers, this was later granted, but access has now again been denied. Local human rights defenders have raised serious concerns about the deteriorating health of the four Filimbi human rights defenders in detention.

Palmer Kabeya was also arrested on 30 December 2017 and detained at the Military Detection of Anti-Patriotic Activities - Détection militaire des activités anti-patrie (DEMIAP), where he remains. He has not been permitted visits by a lawyer or family members.

Four members of another youth-led civil society movement, LUCHA, were detained on 21 January 2018 and remain in detention. Parfait Muhani, Rachel Benie, Justin Mutabesha and Ben Kamuntu were arrested by police officers in front of St Joseph’s Cathedral, Goma, while preparing for the protest on the same day.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned at the pattern of arrests and detentions of human rights defenders who organise, publicise and partake in peaceful demonstrations demanding democracy and respect for the constitution in the DRC. These demonstrations have been violently repressed by Congolese authorities. At a pro-democracy protest on 25 February 2018 Rossy Tshimanga Mukendi was shot and killed as he helped people to seek refuge in Saint-Benoît Catholic Church in Kinshasa from police who were firing indiscriminately at protesters.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continued detention of Carbone Beni, Mino Bompomi, Grâce Tshiunza, Cedrick Kalonji and Palmer Kabeya, as it believes they have been targeted for the legitimate exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Front Line Defenders calls on the Congolese authorities to immediately release the human rights defenders in detention and drop all charges against them.

5 January 2018
Arrest and detention of seven human rights defenders

On 29 and 30 December 2017, seven human rights defenders affiliated with the civil society movement Filimbi were arrested and detained and the whereabouts of another, Palmer Kabeya, are unknown.

Carbone Beni is in charge of Filimbi's network, Mino Bompomi is the coordinator in Kinshasa, Palmer Kabeya is a member of the coordination team in Kinshasa, and Roger Katanga Mwenyemali, Bony Dickson Mputu, Grâce Tshiunza, Cedrick Kalonji and Arciel Beni are members of Filimbi. Filimbi is a pro-democracy and civil society movement which advocates against poor governance and human rights abuses and for respect for the constitution of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Filimbi promotes the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly as well as freedom of thought, working specifically with youth. The movement organises peaceful protests including sit-ins, demonstrations, debates and press conferences.

On 29 December 2017, human rights defender Roger Katanga Mwenyemali was arrested, in the absence of an arrest warrant, while informing the public about the peaceful protest which was organised by Catholics for 31 December 2017. They demanded that President Kabila step down in line with constitutional term limits as his mandate ended in 2016. The human rights defender was taken to a police station in Kindu and charged with breaching national security. On 2 January 2018, Roger Katanga Mwenyemali appeared before a judge and was subsequently transferred to the general prison in Kindu.

On 30 December 2017, Carbone Beni, Mino Bompomi, Bony Dickson Mputu, Grâce Tshiunza, Cedrick Kalonji and Arciel Beni were arrested without presentation of an arrest warrant while informing the public in the commune of N’Djili about the upcoming peaceful protest.

On 31 December, Arciel Beni was released while the others remain in detention.

On 2 January 2018, the remaining five human rights defenders were transferred to the custody of the Agence National de Renseignement – ANR (National Intelligence Agency), but their exact location is unknown. At this time, members of Filimbi also became aware that the whereabouts of another of their members, Palmer Kabeya, are unknown; his colleagues fear that he may have been arrested and taken into detention at an undisclosed location.

This incident is part of a larger pattern of targeted action and harassment of youth-led civil society movements in the DRC. On 19 December 2017, another member of Filimbi, Sony Ndjeka Olela was arrested while participating in a peaceful protest and remains in detention at the office of the ANR. On 28 November 2017, human rights defender Ghislain Muhiwa was arrested and detained along with twenty-one others for seven days for participating in a peaceful demonstration. On 30 September 2017, thirty-three members of LUCHA were arrested during a peaceful demonstration and detained for five days until 3 October 2017. On 19 September 2017, eleven human rights defenders affiliated with Filimbi were arrested while planning a peaceful demonstration and were detained for four days. On 24 October 2016, fourteen members of LUCHA were arrested for mobilising students to participate in peaceful demonstrations organised throughout the DRC and were detained for two days. Another LUCHA activist, Nicolas Mbiya, was arrested on 14 July 2017 and detained until 29 September 2017.

Front Line Defenders condemns the arbitrary arrest and detention of Carbone Beni, Mino Bompomi, Roger Katanga Mwenyemali, Bony Dickson Mputu, Grâce Tshiunza, Cedrick Kalonji and Arciel Beni, as well as the disappearance of Palmer Kabeya, as it believes they have been targeted for the legitimate exercise of freedom of peaceful assembly and association.