Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

Congo: Arrest over abduction of indigenous family's child

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 27 March 2008
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Congo: Arrest over abduction of indigenous family's child, 27 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47ecd2f31a.html [accessed 22 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

BRAZZAVILLE, 27 March 2008 (IRIN) - The High Court in southwestern Congo has indicted a member of an influential family on charges that he was responsible for the forced disappearance 19 years ago of a child from a family of indigenous people, a human rights organisation reported.

Omer Gapa, a former local council official in Sabiti district, was detained by the police on 21 March after the court issued an arrest warrant. He has been accused of taking a six-year-old girl in 1989 against the wishes of her parents. The child has not been heard of since, the Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH) said in a statement.

"Mr Gapa's insolence amid numerous requests [for an explanation] by parents of the girl forced us to go to court to force him to shed light on this matter," said Gabriel Mavanga Bakala, the OCDH official in charge of legal affairs. Gapa at one point claimed that the girl had been taken to France for education.

There are several groups of indigenous communities, often referred to as ?Pygmies', in Congo's forests, including the Baka, Bakola, Aka, Babongo, Bambuti and Batwa, who have often complained of being marginalised and shunned by other communities. Human rights groups say the communities suffer discrimination, exploitation and disrespect by members of other ethnic groups.

OCDH and APSPC, an association championing the rights of indigenous people in Congo, took up the matter on behalf of the parents of the missing child.

They said the case was further proof of marginalisation, discrimination and ill-treatment of the indigenous peoples of Congo.

Both organisations have recommended that the government should keep its promise to the international community and adopt a draft law promoting the protection of the rights of these communities. The law was drafted by the Department of Justice and Human Rights more than three years ago.

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