afrol News, 15 January - After the lifting of a moratorium on executions on 23 September 2002, 15 prisoners are already reported to have been killed in Kinshasa. Last week, another 30 Congolese citizens in a military trial were sentenced to death for their alleged part in the assassination of President Laurent-Desiré Kabila in January 2001. The UN and human rights groups voice their concern.
Fifteen people are reported to have been executed in secret earlier this month in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), representing the first executions known to have taken place since December 2000. These executions took place just hours before 30 people were sentenced to death by the Cour d'ordre militaire, Military Order Court for their alleged role in the assassination of President Laurent-Désiré Kabila.
The 15 executions took place, by firing squad, on the morning of 7 January, according to information gathered by Amnesty International. The bodies were buried in a common grave nearby. The 15 individuals had been on death row at the capital Kinshasa's main prison and were taken from their cells during the night of 5 to 6 January and taken to a military camp close to Kinshasa's Ndjili airport on the outskirts of the city.
Incumbent President Joseph Kabila - son of the President murdered in 2001 - in March 2001 personally committed himself to respecting a moratorium on executions in an address to the UN Human Rights Commission. This moratorium however was lifted in September and the new executions have raised concern in the UN commission.
The UN Commission on Human Rights' Special Rapporteur on executions, Asma Jahangir, and its Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Congo Kinshasa, Iulia-Antoanella Motoc, yesterday jointly expressed "serious concern about recent death sentences" handed down in the Laurent-Desiré Kabila assassination case. The further were concerned about "reports alleging that 15 persons had been executed recently, some of whom reportedly had been convicted by a military tribunal."
- According to information received by the Special Rapporteurs, the trials conducted by the military tribunals were seriously flawed and unfair, the UN agency noted. It had been reported that the judges on these tribunals had no adequate legal training in international human rights law and the defendants reportedly did not have sufficient time to prepare their trials and were denied the right of appeal.
Both UN representatives therefore "urged" the Congolese government, "and in particular President Joseph Kabila, to ensure that existing international standards on safeguards and restrictions relating to the imposition of capital punishment were respected, and to reinstate the country's moratorium on executions."
Also Amnesty International last week expressed its grave concerns. The 15 reported executions reflected "an appalling lack of respect on the part of the Congolese government for the most basic rights of Congolese citizens, including the right to life and the right to fair treatment before the courts," the group said in a statement.
Since its creation in 1997, the Kinshasa Cour d'ordre militaire, which reportedly has consistently failed to meet standards of fairness set out by international law, has been responsible for the execution of some 200 individuals. The 20 individuals sentenced to death in the Laurent-Desiré Kabila assassination case have no right to appeal their sentences. They can only put their hopes into a pardon by the President; Mr Kabila junior.
Sources: Based on UN,
Amnesty and afrol archives