Congo - Amnesty International Report 2007

Human Rights in Republic of Congo

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Head of state: Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Head of government: Isidore Mvouba
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
International Criminal Court: ratified

At least 12 men arrested in early 2005
continued to be detained without trial. Two human rights defenders were
arrested and their trial on charges of abuse of trust concluded in
December. Three asylum-seekers from the Democratic Republic of the
Congo (DRC) were still detained without charge or trial after nearly
three years. There were allegations of torture and ill-treatment of
detainees.

Background

The
National Resistance Council (Conseil national de résistance, CNR)
retained its arms and bases in the Pool region in the south, despite a
2003 peace agreement, and reports continued of looting and lawlessness
by its combatants.

In January, President Sassou-Nguesso became chair of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government.

Political detainees

Former
army Colonel Serge André Mpassi and at least 11 other members or former
members of the security forces, arrested in early 2005, remained in
detention without trial. A further 13 political detainees arrested at
the same time had been released provisionally by the start of 2006.
Some of the 25 were charged in 2005 with involvement in the theft of
military weapons, and all were charged with plotting to overthrow the
government. In March the prosecutor of the Brazzaville High Court
reportedly told the remaining detainees that an examining magistrate
had concluded they had no case to answer. However, by the end of 2006,
the authorities had not withdrawn the charges or released the remaining
detainees.

By the end of 2006, there had
still been no investigation into allegations that Army Sergeant Francis
Ngolo Ngapene was tortured at a military airbase in Pointe-Noire
shortly after his arrest in February 2005, sustaining injuries that
included a broken arm. He remained in Brazzaville?s Central Prison.

Detention and prosecution of human rights defenders

Human
rights defenders Brice Mackosso and Christian Mounzéo were detained on
7 April. The two men, co-ordinators of an anti-corruption coalition of
civil society groups known as Publish What You Pay, appeared to have
been detained because of their human rights work, which included
investigating and denouncing embezzlement of oil revenues by government
officials. They were held at the central prison in Pointe-Noire. After
the arrests, police searched their offices and homes without a warrant,
seizing documents and other property. The two men were provisionally
released on 28 April to await trial on charges of breach of trust,
complicity in breach of trust and forgery. A pre-trial judge decided
that the breach of trust charges should be dropped, because there was
no evidence of misappropriation of funds, but the trial judge ruled
that the case should continue on the basis of the original charges. The
defence challenged this decision but the prosecution succeeded in
reintroducing the charges. After numerous delays, the trial concluded
in December with the original charges intact. On 27 December the High
Court in Pointe-Noire convicted them and gave them a suspended one-year
prison sentence and a fine. They appealed against conviction and
sentence. Christian Mounzéo was briefly detained in November on his
return from a trip to Europe where, according to the Congolese
authorities, he defamed President Sassou-Nguesso.

Torture and ill-treatment

Political detainees and criminal suspects were allegedly tortured and ill-treated.

Four
men arrested in May on suspicion of involvement in trafficking arms
were allegedly beaten repeatedly by members of the police unit
responsible for their detention. One of them, Aymar Mouity, was
reportedly suspended by his feet from the ceiling. The four were held
in the Moukondo detention centre in Brazzaville, in a cramped and dark
cell, which reportedly left them with damaged eyesight. The men were
still held without charge or trial at the end of 2006.

Detention and deportation of asylum-seekers

Three
former members of the DRC security forces seeking asylum in the
Republic of Congo continued to be held without charge or trial at the
headquarters of the military intelligence service. Germain Ndabamenya
Etikilome, Médard Mabwaka Egbonde and Bosch Ndala Umba had been
arrested in March 2004 on the basis of a security agreement between the
DRC and the Republic of Congo to crack down on each others? opponents.
However, the Republic of Congo authorities reportedly believed the men
were DRC spies.

In October, two people
who had escaped from prison in the DRC and another asylum-seeker were
arrested in Brazzaville and deported to the DRC. One of the two escaped
prisoners, Césaire Muzima Mwenyezi, had been serving a life sentence
with 18 other former asylum-seekers deported from Brazzaville to the
DRC in 2001. They had been convicted of involvement in the January 2001
assassination of then President Laurent Désiré Kabila.

There
was no progress in bringing to justice those responsible for the
enforced disappearance in mid-1999 of more than 350 refugees who were
returning from the DRC.

AI country reports/visits

Report

• Republic of Congo: Political detainees in legal limbo (AI Index: AFR 22/003/2006)