Amnesty International Annual Report 2011 - Congo (Republic of)

Head of state and government: Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 3.8 million
Life expectancy: 53.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 135/122 per 1,000

Torture and other ill-treatment by members of the security services were reported in detention centres, including the central prison in Brazzaville. Three asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) spent a sixth year in military detention without charge or trial.


Frédéric Bintsamou, a former leader of the National Resistance Council, an armed group which became a political party, the National Republican Council (CNR), stood as a candidate in a parliamentary by-election in the Pool region in July. The election was won by a candidate from the ruling coalition.

In October, the EU and the Republic of Congo agreed a project to remove mines and other explosives from around the international airport in the capital, Brazzaville. In December, France signed an agreement to support a regional military school and health services for Congolese armed forces.

The government announced in October that it was deploying soldiers, gendarmes and police to restore law and order in the Pool region which had been affected by armed conflict between 1998 and 2003. Leaders of the CNR expressed concern that they had not been consulted about the operation.

The UN Special Rapporteur on indigenous people visited the country in November. The Special Rapporteur expressed concern that Indigenous Peoples were discriminated against and deprived of social and health services, and worked in conditions similar to serfdom. The National Assembly adopted in late December a law to protect Indigenous people known locally as Pygmies. The law seeks to strengthen the protection and promotion of the rights of Pygmies and provide resources for their socio-economic development.

President Sassou-Nguesso granted an amnesty to former President Pascal Lissouba who had been sentenced in 2001 to 30 years' imprisonment with hard labour for treason and corruption. Pascal Lissouba has been living in exile since being overthrown by an armed group led by Denis Sassou-Nguesso in 1997.

In November, the French Cassation Court ruled that a complaint of corruption by the French branch of Transparency International against the Congolese President, the President of Equatorial Guinea and the former President of Gabon, could be heard in French courts. Transparency International asked the French judiciary to inquire into how the three had acquired property in France.

In late December, the Brazzaville Court of Appeal acquitted former army colonel Ferdinand Mbahou of endangering the security of the state. He had been arrested in July 2009 in connection with speeches he had made while living in France, and was granted provisional release in January 2010.

Enforced disappearances

In November, the Republic of Congo withdrew a case against France that it had lodged with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2002. The Republic of Congo had asked the ICJ to nullify a case against President Sassou-Nguesso and other senior government officials in a French court in connection with the disappearance in 1999 of more than 350 Congolese nationals after their return from the DRC. In 2005, a Congolese court found the Congolese government responsible for many of the disappearances but acquitted all security and government officials on trial. By the end of 2010, there had been no inquiry to establish the identities of those who had ordered, carried out or condoned the disappearances.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and ill-treatment by members of the security services were reported in detention centres, including the central prison in Brazzaville.

  • Ferdinand Mbourangon died in September after being beaten by gendarmes at the central prison in Brazzaville. He had been part of a protest against the prison authorities' refusal to allow a fellow inmate to attend his child's funeral. Ferdinand Mbourangon was taken to a military hospital for treatment but prison authorities rejected a doctor's recommendation that he should be hospitalized. An autopsy reportedly established that he had suffered internal bleeding. It was unclear whether the authorities took any action in connection with his death.

  • André Bakekolo, a retired police officer, was severely beaten when he went to Ouenze police station in Brazzaville to complain that police officers had taken his property. The police had been looking for his son, who had been involved in a traffic accident. The commander of the police station was reportedly suspended after André Bakekolo complained to the authorities.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Three asylum-seekers from the DRC spent a sixth year in military detention without charge or trial. Germain Ndabamenya Etikilime, Médard Mabwaka Egbonde and Bosch Ndala Umba were arrested in 2004 in Brazzaville. The authorities continued to refuse to disclose the basis for their detention.

In June, the governments of the Republic of Congo and the DRC and UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, signed an agreement to repatriate about 150,000 people who had fled from the DRC in 2009. It was unclear whether the agreement provided for continued protection in the Republic of Congo for refugees who feared returning to the DRC. The DRC government demanded the extradition of suspected leaders of an armed group accused of causing violence in north-eastern DRC and who were being detained in the Republic of Congo. They had not been extradited by the end of the year.

During a visit by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in November, President Sassou-Nguesso announced that the stay of some 8,000 Rwandan refugees in his country would expire at the end of 2011.

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