Senegal charges DR Congo policeman over murder of rights activist


A court in Senegal has charged a Democratic Republic of Congo police officer suspected of involvement in the murder of a human rights activist in Democratic Republic of Congo, a rights group said on Friday.

The move revives an investigation into the death more than four years ago of Floribert Chebeya and his driver in a case that highlighted Congo’s poor rights record and underscores how Senegal’s legal system can be used to try people accused of committing torture in other countries.

Last year, the FIDH, a global coalition of 178 rights groups, filed the complaint in Senegal against Paul Mwilanbwe, a Congolese policeman who has admitted involvement in the murders and fled to Senegal.

FIDH said Mwilambwe was charged and placed under judicial supervision in Dakar on Thursday.
“That Paul Mwilanbwe has been indicted and heard by an independent investigative judge is a fundamental step on the road to truth and, we hope, to the justice which has not been available to the victims’ families in (Congo),” Patrick Baudouin, honorary president of FIDH, said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Senegalese authorities.

Chebeya, who headed Congo’s Voice for the Voiceless human rights organisation, disappeared in 2010 after being summoned to meet the national police chief at the time. He was later found dead in a car and his driver disappeared.

A number of policemen were convicted of the murder but human rights groups have called for an independent investigation to establish who was responsible for killing a vocal critic of President Joseph Kabila’s government.

Mwilambwe, who was in charge of security for then national police chief John Numbi, has told French media he and senior police officers, including Numbi, were involved in the murder.
“Since the Democratic Republic of Congo did not provide for equitable judicial proceedings, we initiated the proceedings in Senegal to ensure that an impartial and independent investigation would be carried out,” FIDH lawyer Assane Dioma Ndiaye said in the statement.

The law allowing suspects in Senegal to be tried for crimes committed elsewhere is also being used in the prosecution of former Chadian leader Hissene Habre, who is accused of crimes committed when he was president in the 1990s.