Secret Police Accused of Torture
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||2 July 2009|
|Citation / Document Symbol||AR No. 220|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Secret Police Accused of Torture, 2 July 2009, AR No. 220, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a4dbb64c.html [accessed 26 April 2015]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Rights groups say they have received many reports of intelligence agents abusing detainees.
By an IWPR-trained journalist in Lubumbashi (AR No. 220, 02-July-09)Victims and human rights groups have accused national intelligence agents in Lubumbashi in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, of arbitrary arrests and torture.
The accused are members of the notorious national intelligence agency, which goes by the French acronym, ANR, and operate in the mineral-rich Katanga province of the country, victims say.
The abuses alleged to have been committed by ANR officials are common throughout the Congolese justice system, which has been in chaos since a series of wars devastated the country from the late 1990s, say rights activists.
The government called in the International Criminal Court, ICC, in 2004, which has since issued indictments for five Congolese. One is currently on trial in The Hague.
Police officers, lawyers and judges are badly paid, with little training and no accountability, meaning impunity is the only constant for Congolese people.
According to the Congolese human rights group Centre des Droits de l'Homme, CDH, a recent case of alleged ANR abuse concerns Mulumba Kapepula, who it said was abducted on March 16 by five government agents.
The rights group said that Kapepula was arrested because he had criticised DRC president Joseph Kabila earlier in the day at a rally in the offices of the national railway company where he works.
A provincial minister said the authorities were doing all they could to cut out abuses and allegations of torture were being investigated.
According to CDH, Kapepula complained that Kabila had rewarded players of the national football team, but that workers in public corporations like the national power company had not received salaries for three years.
Kapepula was held in the Kasapa prison in Lubumbashi. He was released recently after officials said the charge of offending the head of state was baseless.
Kapepula had previously asked to be released to get medical treatment for wounds suffered from being tortured in prison, but the court did not respond.
"I was severely tortured, flogged, then plugged to electrical power, and I underwent strangulation of my genitals for the whole night of March 16, by ANR agents," Kapepula said in a May 18 petition to the trial judge.
Kapepula's health was seriously jeopardised, according to CDH.
While detained, Kapepula vomited and urinated blood and was unable to speak, according to the rights group, and was denied visits. Kapepula spent five days with government agents before being transferred to the Kasapa prison, the group said.
Jean-Marie Dikanga Kazadi, Katanga provincial minister for interior, justice, communication and customary affairs, said the Kapepula case involved state security.
"Faced with the facts, Kapepula engaged in a media battle, resorting to misplaced declarations to the point that he drew the attention of the intelligence service on that matter related to state security," Kazadi said.
"It is in these conditions that the ANR in conformity with its mission intervened to preserve the credibility and the authority of the state."
Contacted by IWPR for comment on the accusations, an agent said he could not speak on the record to the press.
Human rights group Amnesty International is also critical of the ANR.
Andrew Philip, Congo researcher at Amnesty International, said the organisation has received many reports of torture and ill-treatment of those detained by the intelligence agency.
"There is flagrant and routine abuse of human rights by the ANR," said Philip. "This can range from simple beatings to being ordered to lie down and stare up into the sun for hours on end.
"They're up there amongst the most common torturers in DRC."
He said the Lubumbashi ANR, in President Joseph Kabila's power base of Katanga, are among the worst in the country. "The Lubumbashi ANR sticks out above the others," he said.
Philip explained the ANR falls under the direct authority of Kabila with its mandate supposed to be limited to investigating crimes against the security of the state such as treason, espionage, political crimes or conspiracies.
However, Philip said the ANR routinely arrests and detains individuals suspected of common criminal offences. "They arrest people for theft, primarily with a view to extorting money from them," he said.
Opposition and civil society activists accused of violating state security are also targeted. "This is their stock in trade," Philip said.
He said detainees are typically held incommunicado - in cruel and inhuman conditions with no food or water - at special ANR detention centres. Most have no access to legal assistance.
"People have a lot of problems getting into ANR detention, whether it is [United Nations] human rights monitors or local human rights activists or family members.
"People can spend days and weeks in ANR detention without any kind of judicial scrutiny of the arrest and frequently just go missing for weeks on end. Eventually, by and large, they re-emerge, either released or put before the courts."
Congo, with the help of the international community, has made some small progress in reforming its security services, particularly the army, but Philip says the secret police remain untouched.
"Most of these intelligence services that depend directly on the presidency are not subject to parliamentary oversight or scrutiny. They are not subject to the ministry of justice scrutiny," he said.
In another case of apparent torture earlier this year a man named Jean claimed to have been arbitrarily detained by agents of the ANR in Lubumbashi. Jean is not his real name, which is withheld by IWPR to protect him from reprisals.
Jean told IWPR he was picked up for no valid reason. "Four tough guys threw me to the ground ... they rained blows on my buttocks," he said.
He said he was "locked in a cramped cell, with no air and a muddy floor full of worms and insects. I stand there for at least four hours. The oxygen starts rarefying and I get dizzy".
A senior officer had him moved to a larger cell with ten people, but where he had little place to stand or rest. Some of the others were also injured, he said.
Kazadi said his office is doing all it can to combat allegations of torture and mistreatment of civilians by members of the security forces.
"My ministry is engaged in a vast awareness campaign to put an end to shameful practices [of] harassing and torturing the population," Kazadi told IWPR.
"Dozens of such messages telling [agents] to stop these practices have been sent. We want to inform you that those who have committed these acts of torture have purely and simply been suspended for investigation."
Attempts by IWPR to contact a DRC government minister for further comment were unsuccessful.
Golden Misabiko, the manager of the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights, ASADHO, told IWPR, "We condemn [the] impunity enjoyed by ANR agents who benefit from the protection of their superiors."
Misabiko appealed to Kabila to "halt these serious human rights abuses committed by agents of the security services". He urged victims of torture "to always report an arbitrary arrest, illegal detention, and tortures to the general prosecutor against ANR agents".
CDH noted that the Congolese constitution states that "the human being is sacred. The state has an obligation to respect and protect it".
"Each person has a right to life, physical integrity," the CDH said, mostly because the DRC has ratified the international agreement on civil and political rights and the prohibitions against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Copyright notice: © Institute for War & Peace Reporting