A Congolese military court recently tried and convicted the accused murderers of Congolese human rights activist, Floribert Chebeya. The four perpetrators, who were tried in absentia, were sentenced to death. Another three defendants were acquitted and one was jailed. This outcome provides a small amount of closure to Chebeya’s murder, and contrasts with the usual culture of impunity that prevails among Congo’s security services.
As the Kabila government prepares for November elections, for which there have already been reports of intimidation, the international community will welcome any steps to reduce human rights abuses by the security services.
To be credible, the Kabila government will need to follow up the Chebeya convictions by prosecuting the perpetrators of numerous other murders, and act quickly on any future incidents. Congo has a history of grim human rights abuses, and a number of prominent civil society activists and journalists have been murdered without credible investigations.
Chebeya, the director of Voice of the Voiceless, considered one of Congo’s most important human rights organizations, disappeared on June 1, 2010, on his way to meet with Congo police inspector general John Numbi. The next day, his body was found in the back seat of his car. According to Human Rights Watch, the government allowed only limited access to Chebeya body and did not immediately begin investigating the crime.