Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2002 - Congo-Brazzaville

Threats against Mr. Marcel Touanga23

Mr. Marcel Touanga, former Colonel in the Congolese Army, Chairman and founder member of the Collective of Brazzaville Beach Missing Persons' Families (Collectif des parents des disparus du "Beach de Brazzaville"), received threats in 2002, as did members of his family. The threats were connected with the legal action in France against the political and military personnel suspected of involvement in the "Beach" disappearances.24 Mr. Touanga is both plaintiff in the case and, as the father of one of the missing persons, witness. After applying to the Congolese authorities to shed light on the disappearances, Mr. Touanga received serious threats from the Congolese authorities and had to seek refuge in France. On 16th June, his home in Brazzaville was searched by armed soldiers. On 3rd July, men in plain clothes told his family to leave their home. In France, around midsummer, Mr. Touanga received almost daily threats through anonymous phone calls to his home. The intimidation increased after General Dabira, targeted by the proceedings instituted in France, was questioned on 23rd May 2002.

In September 2002, the official media reported defamatory statements about Mr. Touanga made by Congolese President Denis Sassou N'Guesso on his return from a visit to Paris; Mr. Touanga had sent a letter to President Jacques Chirac of France on that occasion.

At the end of 2002, Mr. Touanga was still under surveillance, although the anonymous phone calls seem to have ceased.

Threats and smear campaigns against OCDH25

Members of the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights (Observatoire congolais des droits de l'homme – OCDH) are still being subjected to threats, intimidation and slander.

On 20th July, Mr. Dieudonné Mounzeo, elder brother of Mr. Christian Mounzeo, General Secretary of the OCDH, received several anonymous telephone calls telling him "It's your brother who organises the agitation here, we are going to kill you all". Dieudonné Mounzeo also had his teacher's pay suspended for six months; according to his superior, these persecutions are directly linked to his brother's activities. Two other people with the name of Mounzeo but unrelated to Christian Mounzeo were subjected to administrative interference at their work. One was dismissed from their job after Christian Mounzeo had spoken on Radio France Internationale (RFI). In September, an officer of the Congolese army in Brazzaville told a member of the OCDH, "It may be that truth makes men free, but I hope Mr. Mounzeo has no family in the Congo, or he really would be ill advised to talk like that".

In August 2002, an NGO platform, the Congolese Federation of Human Rights (Fédération congolaise des droits de l'Homme – FECODHO) was formed with the obvious purpose of discrediting the work and opinions of the OCDH in the eyes of national and international public opinion. FECODHO is a platform of eleven Congolese associations, all of which have close links to government circles. When it was formed, the pro-government newspaper Les Dépêches de Brazzaville of 23rd August stated that the creation of FECODHO would "at last enable us to effectively counter the misinformation spread internationally by the Congolese Observatory of Human Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights". As at end 2002, FECODHO was still active and working to promote government policy. The creation of this "governmental NGO" is a reaction to the human rights defenders' efforts to combat impunity, especially the legal proceedings the OCDH and FIDH have instituted in France concerning the "Brazzaville Beach" case (1999).

In November, the OCDH was divested of its role in organising a series of training seminars for human rights trainers, due to take place in Pointe Noire under a joint UNDP-Congolese Government project called Justice and Human Rights. When the partnership agreement between the UNDP and OCDH was due to be signed, the government demanded that the OCDH be divested of its position, so discrediting the OCDH in the eyes of the partners contacted. The project was then entrusted to another organisation, even though the government and the UNDP had relied on OCDH expertise to design the programme.

Lastly, in December 2002, Head of State D. Sassou N'Guesso stated in an interview with Jeune Afrique – l'Intelligent (N° 2189-2190/22nd December – 2nd January) that "the Congolese branch of the FIDH is anything but apolitical".

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

23. See Urgent Appeal COG 001/0702/OBS 042.

24 The people who disappeared from Brazzaville Beach in April/November 1999 were refugees who had come into the Pool region during the 1998 civil war, moved into the Democratic Republic of Congo and then returned to Congo via the Brazzaville river harbour following a tripartite agreement defining a humanitarian corridor under the auspices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). The Congolese government gave assurances and guarantees on the safety of people wishing to return. But at the Brazzaville Beach harbour, the displaced persons were split into several groups, transferred to undisclosed locations, and many of them simply disappeared. Concordant sources indicate more than three hundred and fifty cases of disappearance during this return from exile.

25. See Annual Report 2001.


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