A journalist who received a six-month prison term was a possible prisoner of conscience. Prison conditions were harsh, amounting to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and resulted in a number of deaths. Several people, including a member of an armed opposition group, were killed by police in circumstances suggesting that they may have been extrajudicially executed. There was a high level of violent crime carried out by members of armed opposition groups who had failed to disarm in accordance with the cease-fire agreement between President Pascal Lissouba and his opponents in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). However, the level of politically motivated violence was much reduced as a result of the 1994 agreement. A proposed law on the press, providing for prison terms of up to three years for journalists convicted of offences against the Head of State or Prime Minister, such as publishing false information attributed to a third party, was passed in mid-1995 by the National Assembly. It was being considered by the Senate at the end of the year. In June the Director of the newspaper Le Choc, Asie Dominique de Marseille, was detained for writing several articles which alleged that the Minister of Finance had embezzled public funds and had written a letter proposing that President Lissouba should prolong his Presidency. Asie Dominique de Marseille was sentenced in July to one month's imprisonment for spreading false information. In late July, as Asie Dominique de Marseille was ending his prison term, he and his editor-in-chief, Jean-Baptiste Voukumba, were tried in connection with an article published by their newspaper alleging that Prime Minister Joachim Yhombi-Opango had embezzled public funds. Both journalists were found guilty of spreading false information. Asie Dominique de Marseille was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, while Jean-Baptiste Voukumba received an eight-month suspended sentence. Both were ordered to pay fines. Asie Dominique de Marseille appeared to be a prisoner of conscience targeted for exercising his right to freedom of expression. He was released on 30 November under a presidential pardon. Prison conditions amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Starvation and medical neglect, resulting in an unspecified number of deaths in custody, were reported in Brazzaville Central Prison which, although built for 100 inmates, was holding more than 600. Similar conditions were said to prevail in other prisons throughout the country. Following public criticism of the conditions in Brazzaville Central Prison by local journalists and human rights activists, prisoners serving short prison terms were reportedly allowed out during the day to beg food from friends and relatives. However, those serving long prison terms or held on serious criminal charges continued to be subjected to long periods without food. Several people killed by police may have been victims of extrajudicial executions. In July, Loumingou Kengue was reportedly beaten to death by police who mistook her for another person whom they sought. The same month, Mbonza Mataba, a leader of the Zoulou armed militia, was shot and fatally injured by police in suspicious circumstances. There was apparently no official investigation into these killings. Nor were there any investigations into extrajudicial executions and other human rights violations reported in previous years (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Amnesty International urged the authorities to take measures to end impunity. In particular, the organization called for independent and impartial investigations to identify members of government forces who had been responsible for human rights violations during and before 1995, and to ensure that they were brought to justice. Responses received from the authorities did not address these issues.

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