Amnesty International Report 1998 - Congo (Democratic Republic of the)

(This report covers the period January-December 1997) In the period before the change of government in May, scores of people, including prisoners of conscience, were detained without charge or trial, and the security forces tortured detainees and massacred unarmed civilians. Fifteen people were sentenced to death. Armed opposition groups committed grave human rights abuses including thousands of deliberate and arbitrary killings. Rwandese refugees were missing after armed operations; many may have been killed. Under the new government, hundreds of suspected opponents were detained, mostly without charge or trial; some of them were prisoners of conscience. Torture and ill-treatment were widespread. There were reports of "disappearances" and hundreds of extrajudicial executions. One soldier was executed by firing-squad and 13 others were sentenced to death. The new authorities forcibly returned refugees to countries where they would be at grave risk of human rights abuses. Armed groups opposed to the new government also committed grave human rights abuses. In the early part of the year armed conflict continued between the Forces armées zaïroises (faz), Zairian Armed Forces, and the opposition Alliance des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo-Zaïre (afdl), Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. The afdl, with the support of Rwandese government and other forces, continued to gain ground from the east   On 17 May the afdl entered the capital, Kinshasa. Ousted President Mobutu Sese Seko left the country. A transitional government was named by the afdl on 22 May and one week later afdl leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila was inaugurated as President. The country changed its name from Zaire to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (drc). The new government pledged to uphold human rights and to hold elections in 1999, but the Constitution was revoked. President Kabila was given wide-ranging personal powers, and political party activity outside the afdl was banned Under the new government, armed conflict continued to be reported in the east of the country, with clashes taking place between the afdl and armed opposition groups, including former members of the faz, members of the former Rwandese armed forces and Congolese armed opposition groups. In late March the UN Special Rapporteur on Zaire led a fact-finding team to gather information about massacres during the conflict in eastern Zaire. Although the afdl restricted his movements, the Special Rapporteur submitted a report to the UN Commission on Human Rights. On the basis of this report the Commission decided in April to send the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on a joint mission to eastern Zaire to investigate reports of violations of human rights and humanitarian law. The afdl denied the mission access to the region and no investigation occurred. In August, after consultations with the UN Security Council and the new government, the UN Secretary-General sent his own investigative team to the country. The drc Government persistently frustrated the team's efforts to begin investigations. The team's leaders were recalled to UN headquarters in October, but returned in late November to begin the investigation after an agreement was reached between President Kabila and the us Permanent Representative to the UN. In early December, after weeks of delay, the investigative team was deployed to Mbandaka in the northwest of the drc. The team withdrew from the area in mid-December after it experienced hostile demonstrations and demands by local leaders to be paid before the investigation could begin In the period before the change of government in May, scores of detainees were held without charge or trial, including prisoners of conscience. Among them were Zairians of Tutsi ethnic origin, refugees, journalists and human rights activists. All were held in extremely harsh conditions and many were tortured. faz soldiers looted, raped and killed with impunity. The victims included residents of towns and villages in the path of soldiers retreating from afdl advances, people of Rwandese, Burundi or Ugandan origin, and refugees. Church, and international and national humanitarian aid workers were also targeted. In January, 15 people were sentenced to death by court martial, joining scores already under sentence of death. No executions had been reported when the government fell in May, but it was unclear whether the sentences were upheld under the new government. Under the new government, one soldier was executed by firing-squad in October after a special military court found him guilty of killing a student in September. Eight soldiers convicted in September of attempted mutiny and five others convicted in December of violent offences, including criminal conspiracy, armed robbery and attempted murder, were under sentence of death at the end of the year. While in opposition the afdl committed gross human rights abuses in the territory under its control. It committed thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of deliberate and arbitrary killings of Rwandese and Burundian Hutu refugees and of Zairian Hutu. For example, on 25 February, several hundred Rwandese refugees, including eight Rwandese priests and three nuns, were reportedly killed in Kalima, two days after the town had been taken by afdl forces Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Hutu refugees were reported to have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed in the South-Kivu region, particularly during February and March. Bodies were hidden in mass graves, or left by the side of roads. For example, scores of refugees were reportedly killed and buried in a mass grave at Mpwe, west of Shabunda, around March. On 13 May some 800 refugees were massacred by afdl soldiers at Mbandaka, Equateur region. Some of those killed were reportedly ordered to kneel or lie on the ground before they were shot or bayoneted to death. Others were killed when soldiers opened automatic fire on a group waiting for transport Tens of thousands of unarmed civilians, mostly Rwandese refugees, were missing after afdl operations. It was feared that many may have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed or may have died from starvation and exposure. As many as 40,000 refugees from Kasese and Biaro camps, south of Kisangani, went missing in April. The refugees had been fleeing westwards from refugee camps in Kivu, as the afdl frontline advanced. On 20 April, six civilians were killed near Kasese camp; the killings were blamed by the afdl on the refugees. Over the following days, international humanitarian organizations were denied access to the camps, which were reportedly attacked by afdl combatants and armed civilians colluding with them. Local people reported seeing a bulldozer digging mass graves and burying bodies. By 23 April, Kasese and Biaro camps were entirely deserted. About 40,000 refugees were located by humanitarian workers in subsequent days but about 40,000 others remained unaccounted for. It was feared that many may have been deliberately and arbitrarily killed. After the afdl came to power, human rights violations persisted. Hundreds of people were arrested and held without charge or trial under the new government; some of them were prisoners of conscience. Those held included human rights activists, journalists, members of opposition parties and people associated with the former government. Many detainees were held incommunicado, sometimes in private houses and other illegal places of detention. Human rights activists were targeted for arrest and intimidation, including raids on their offices and death threats. Bertin Lukanda and Diomba Ramazani, leading members of a coalition of non-governmental organizations, were arrested in August on suspicion of collecting information about massacres for UN investigators. They were reportedly beaten severely. One of their colleagues, Dieudonné Asumani, was arrested in mid-August and accused of having sent information about their arrest to foreign organizations. Bertin Lukanda was also a member of a human rights group based in Kindu, known as Haki Za Binadamu, several of whose workers had been harassed and prevented from travelling around the country in previous months. They were all released in September. Didi Mwati Bulambo, a human rights activist who had previously been arrested and ill-treated by President Mobutu's security officials, was arrested by afdl soldiers on 23 August and held in a military barracks at Kamituga in Mwenga district of South-Kivu. He was denied access to legal counsel or to medical care until his release on 18 September. Also arrested and held without charge were journalists critical of the afdl, including Polydor Muboyayi Mubanga, editor-in-chief of Le Phare newspaper, who was arrested in September in Kinshasa. He was beaten by soldiers at the time of his arrest and was charged with "spreading false rumours and inciting ethnic hatred". The charge related to an article in his newspaper critical of President Kabila. President Kabila ordered his release in mid-November. Supporters of opposition parties were arrested. For example, 15 members of the main opposition party, the Union pour la démocratie et le progrès social, Union for Democracy and Social Progress, were arrested at a peaceful demonstration in mid-August. They were reportedly tortured with electric-shock batons during interrogation and denied essential medical treatment. They were released on 14 October without having been charged or tried. From June onwards, dozens of people associated with former President Mobutu's government were arrested. One of them, General Kikunda Ombala, appeared before Kinshasa Court of Appeal in December on charges of embezzlement of public funds and property when he was director of the Zairian Airways Agency and Air Zaire. Torture and ill-treatment of detainees were widespread. For example, nine men arrested in Goma on 29 May and accused of armed robbery were repeatedly kicked and beaten with sticks and rifle butts. They were also burned when irons were welded round their arms and legs. Many former members of the faz taken into camps for retraining reportedly died after being beaten and deprived of food and medical care Women were reported to have been victims of torture, including rape, and to have been beaten on their breasts or otherwise ill-treated. A number of schoolgirls were reportedly raped by soldiers in August at Masambo, Rwenzori sub-district (chefferie), North-Kivu. Women dressed in miniskirts, trousers or leggings were targeted for torture or ill-treatment by afdl soldiers in Kinshasa. For example, in May afdl soldiers beat a girl wearing a mini-skirt with a nail-studded piece of wood, and reportedly whipped another young woman 40 times. The security forces repeatedly used violence, including lethal force, to disperse peaceful opposition demonstrations and meetings. For example, in July soldiers opened fire on a peaceful demonstration by the Parti Lumumbiste Unifié (palu), United Lumumbist Party, in Kinshasa. At least one demonstrator, Kiambukuta Komisa, died as a result and six were severely injured. About 130 demonstrators were arrested. Soldiers also reportedly broke into the home of palu leader Antoine Gizenga, where they reportedly stripped naked and whipped a number of palu supporters "Disappearances" were reported. For example, 17 people reportedly "disappeared" in Rwindi, North-Kivu province, after being arrested on 26 May Extrajudicial executions by afdl soldiers were reported in many parts of the country. In virtually all cases the authorities denied that the afdl were responsible. As many as 120 unarmed civilians were reportedly shot dead on 26 May by afdl soldiers in Uvira. The victims were reportedly demonstrating against the killing the previous night of about 10 people by gunmen who local people suspected were members of the afdl. On 29 May a Save the Children Fund worker and four Rwandese refugees, including a child, were shot dead by afdl soldiers in Karuba, west of Goma. In early June about 40 Burundian former students from Bukavu University were reportedly bayoneted to death by members of the afdl between Bukavu and Shabunda In late June about 60 Rwandese refugees, including children, were reportedly massacred by afdl soldiers at Kavumu, Kivu. The victims were apparently on their way to Rwanda. Between 2 and 5 August, afdl soldiers were reported to have killed as many as 800 unarmed people in the villages of Wimbi, Alela, Abanga and Talama, which lie between South-Kivu and Shaba provinces on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. The soldiers reportedly came from the Sha-ba town of Kalemie, and were apparently searching for armed opposition groups. In Kinshasa a number of former faz soldiers and criminal suspects were killed by afdl soldiers. Some were mutilated and burned to death. Members of opposition political parties and students were also killed. For example, Freddy Manganzo Nzani, a university student in Kinshasa, was killed by an afdl soldier during a demonstration in June. He was reportedly shot as he pleaded for his life The new government forced hundreds of refugees from Rwanda and Burundi to return to their countries, despite the fact that their lives would be at grave risk there. For example, on 4 September the government forcibly returned about 800 Rwandese and Burundian refugees in Kisangani to Rwanda. In protest, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (unhcr) suspended activities for Rwandese refugees in the drc. On 3 October the government announced that it had returned 4,000 refugees to Rwanda, and ordered the unhcr to stop its work in North-Kivu. Armed opposition groups continued to commit human rights abuses including deliberate and arbitrary killings. Armed groups, including members of the former Rwandese army, former members of the faz, and members of an armed group known as the mayi-mayi, were reported to have killed members of the Tutsi ethnic group who had returned from Rwanda to North-Kivu in early 1997. Attacks on Tutsi civilians reportedly increased in the middle of the year after Tutsi were appointed to replace local government officials from rival ethnic groups in Kivu. Amnesty International appealed repeatedly to the government of President Mobutu, to the afdl, and to the government of President Kabila to respect human rights. In February it published Zaire: Rape, killings and other human rights violations by the security forces. In March it published a memorandum to the UN Security Council appealing for a commission of inquiry to investigate reports of atrocities in eastern Zaire. In August Amnesty International submitted a memorandum to President Kabila proposing measures to foster the rule of law. The government turned down a request by the organization to visit the country. In December Amnesty International published Democratic Republic of the Congo: Deadly alliances in Congolese forests, which detailed continuing mass human rights violations since March, including some carried out by Rwandese government forces. ZAMBIA (This report covers the period January-December 19970   A newspaper journalist was a prisoner of conscience; several other journalists were detained for brief periods. More than 90 people were detained without charge or trial following an attempted coup; some were tortured and one may have died as a result of torture. There were allegations of ill-treatment, torture, shootings and unlawful killings by law enforcement officers. Two opposition politicians were shot and injured while driving away from police. Prison conditions remained harsh and amounted to ill-treatment. A former Rwandese cabinet minister, a refugee in Zambia, apparently "disappeared"; she later reappeared in a Rwandese prison. Eight prisoners were hanged in the first executions in eight years. Around 130 prisoners remained under sentence of death. In January Home Affairs Minister Chitaulu Sampa reportedly ordered police to be "very brutal" in dealing with what he termed "arrogant members of the public" who disobeyed police instructions to demonstrators to disperse. In April the government proposed a bill which would have created a government-appointed media council with powers to impose fines on and imprison journalists who did not conform to its rules. The bill was withdrawn following criticism from civic organizations, journalists, international human rights organizations and foreign governments. An attempted coup took place in October, following which a three-month state of emergency was declared. Many rights guaranteed under the Constitution were suspended, allowing lengthy detention without charge or trial, and restrictions on freedom of conscience, expression, assembly and movement. A newspaper journalist was detained as a prisoner of conscience. In February the Supreme Court of Zambia sentenced The Post newspaper editor Masautso Phiri to a three-month prison term for "contempt of court" for publishing a column containing allegations that members of the Supreme Court were offered bribes amounting to us$10.8 million by President Frederick Chiluba. Masautso Phiri was released in April, but was rearrested in August while covering a demonstration (see below) Several other journalists were detained for brief periods. In February an editor and a reporter on the independent newspaper The Chronicle were detained for two days on charges of contempt of parliament, publishing false news and criminal libel against President Chiluba. The charges were later dropped in a court settlement that reportedly included printing a retraction. Another Chronicle reporter, George Jambwa, was charged with criminal trespass in February, after being arrested and held for four days in December 1996 at an army barracks in Lusaka, the capital, where he had gone to interview an army officer. Dismissing the charges in April, a magistrate noted that George Jambwa had been the victim of "a conspiracy to cover up the inefficiency of security at the gate". In January, April and August Post reporters were arrested and briefly detained. In April a judge dismissed criminal defamation charges, pending since 1994, against four Post journalists who had published an article alleging an extra-marital affair by presidential press assistant Richard Sakala. In May a judge dismissed charges against three editors of The Post who had been accused of revealing a state secret when, in February 1996, they published details of a cabinet plan for a referendum over the 1996 draft constitution (see Amnesty International Report 1997). Following the attempted coup in October, police and security forces indefinitely detained more than 90 suspects. Many of them were initially held incommunicado and without charge under the terms of the state of emergency. One detainee, Dean Mung'omba, President of the opposition Zambia Democratic Congress, was reportedly subjected to beatings, electric shocks, cigarette burns and sleep deprivation. Other detainees – mostly army officers – were also reportedly tortured or ill-treated by the police. One detainee allegedly died as a result of torture. Among those detained were Captain Stephen Lungu, Captain Jackson Chiti, Major Bilex Mutale, Major Musonda Kangwa and Staff Sergeant Kennedy Sinutala. All were still detained at the end of the year. None had been charged or tried. Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia and leader of the United National Independence Party (unip), who had been travelling abroad at the time of the coup, was arrested on 25 December after he returned. He was later put under house arrest, where he remained at the end of the year. The authorities accused him of conspiring with Dean Mung'omba, leader of the opposition Liberal Progressive Front, Roger Chongwe, Captain Stephen Lungu, Captain Jack Chiti and Major Musonda Kangwa to overthrow the government. Roger Chongwe remained outside the country. Hearings on the legality of this and other related detentions continued at the end of the year. Police beat and otherwise ill-treated participants in opposition rallies scheduled without giving notice to the police, and other demonstrators. In February, for example, police fired tear-gas and used batons and whips to break up a peaceful demonstration by the unip in Ndola. Some demonstrators were injured. In July police broke up a peaceful unip rally in Lusaka. They then surrounded the unip headquarters, entered the building and fired tear-gas inside, in violation of international standards. Several people were injured in police beatings when they emerged from the building or later in police custody. In August police reportedly beat and kicked stall-holders who rioted after their stalls mysteriously burned down. Several stallholders were injured in the beatings, and two allegedly died of their injuries. Unarmed suspects were injured or killed in police shootings which appeared to involve excessive or unlawful use of force. In June, two police officers in the northern town of Kitwe allegedly shot a suspected robber in both legs after beating him with gun butts and tying his hands together. In a case in October police officers in Lusaka shot and killed a man who was urinating in public The police officers later claimed that the man had grabbed for an officer's gun, but eye-witnesses dispute this. No disciplinary action was known to have been taken in either case. In August police in Kabwe shot and wounded Kenneth Kaunda and Roger Chongwe. A bullet grazed Kenneth Kaunda's head and caused serious injury to Roger Chongwe's cheek and neck. That morning, police had used live ammunition to disperse people gathering for an unsanctioned opposition rally which the two were due to address, arresting journalist Masautso Phiri and reportedly beating him and smashing his camera. Police reportedly then cornered the two politicians in an office building, allegedly opening fire when the two attempted to flee. Two senior police officers were later suspended. Police officials claimed that officers mistakenly used live ammunition to disperse the rally. The authorities denied allegations that there had been an officially sanctioned attempt to assassinate Kenneth Kaunda and Roger Chongwe. By the end of the year no official investigation into the allegations appeared to have taken place. Prison conditions remained harsh and amounted to ill-treatment. The number of prisoners was nearly double that which could be adequately housed, and clean water, food, blankets, clothing and medicines were in short supply. Up to 100 prisoners, weakened by malnourishment, died from diseases such as tuberculosis and aids. In a measure believed to be aimed at addressing the problem of overcrowding, President Chiluba pardoned 480 prisoners in May and another 300 in October. In May, Agnes Ntamabyaliro Rutagwera, a former Rwandese government minister who had been living in Zambia as a refugee since 1995, was abducted from her house in the northern town of Mufalira. According to reports, her abductors wore the uniform of the Zambian Immigration Service and used a vehicle bearing Zambian government licence plates. She was later discovered to be in prison in Kigali, Rwanda. The Zambian Government, which denied any involvement in the incident, had apparently failed to initiate a promised investigation by the end of the year. Eight prisoners were hanged in the first executions in eight years. There was particular concern about the secrecy surrounding the executions in January of Abraham Kasongo, Nelson Ngundano, Dennis Chisela Chembe, Robert Mulumbi, David Kapanga, John Gumbo, Joseph Masiti Chilanda, and Christopher Mwansa Oldfield, all of whom had been convicted of murder or aggravated robbery. The executions only came to light by March, and the government refused to confirm the names of those executed or the charges on which they had been convicted. There was concern at reports that one of the men – Nelson Ngundano – had been suffering from mental illness developed after nearly 15 years under sentence of death. Approximately 130 prisoners remained under sentence of death. Amnesty International called for Kenneth Kaunda and the others detained in connection with the coup attempt to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence or released, and for the investigation and prosecution of those police officers responsible for the torture of detainees. The organization wrote to President Chiluba urging that an immediate, thorough and independent investigation take place into the shootings by police in June, August and October, including the incident involving Kenneth Kaunda and Roger Chongwe, as well as shootings which took place in previous years, and that the results of all such investigations be made public. Amnesty International wrote to the President calling for an immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding Agnes Ntamabyaliro Rutagwera's "disappearance". The organization also wrote to the President to express its deep regret at, and condemnation of, the execution of the eight men in January. In a report published in November, Zambia: Forcible exile to suppress dissent, Amnesty International described how investigations into the nationality of government critics had been used to intimidate them. The report detailed the cases of two unip politicians, William Stephen Banda and John Lyson Chinula, who had been deported in 1994 in circumstances amounting to forcible exile because of their political activities.

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