PRESS RELEASE – Indignation after 30 death sentences in Kinshasa


By Michel Kalemba, Suzanne Mangomba, Xavière Prugnard and Bertin Leblanc, on 4 August 2021

Kinshasa, Paris, May 27, 2021

Our organizations denounce the recent death sentences handed down by the High Court of Gombe, in the center of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following violence against the forces of order.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Thursday, May 13, 2021, clashes broke out near the Martyrs stadium in Kinshasa between two Muslim communities. Police intervened to disperse the people using tear gas and live ammunition. Violence against the police was perpetrated and forty-one (41) people were arrested and brought before the tribunal de grande instance de la Gombe, in the center of Kinshasa, in flagrante delicto proceedings.

In total, the High Court sentenced thirty (30) people to death during a hearing that lasted all night from Friday, May 14 to Saturday, May 15, 2021, only two days after their arrest.the charges were criminal conspiracy, rebellion, assault and battery and looting, as well as attempted murder and murder for some of the convicted.

Our organizations express serious doubts about the conditions surrounding the holding of this trial and the respect of the right to a fair trial, guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of the United Nations – ratified by the DRC.

The defendants were sentenced to death after a single hearing in flagrante delicto, each having only five minutes to defend themselves, without any evidence against them or witnesses and without any preparatory instruction. The few police officers who testified stated in court that “in the absence of evidence on the identity of the people who assaulted the police, we considered that anyone apprehended after the police had verbally summoned them to leave the premises was presumed guilty.
Our organizations denounce the abusive use by the Congolese justice system of the offense of “association de malfaiteurs” to sentence people to death. In fact, during the last six months, at least 46 people have been sentenced to death under this accusation.

These death sentences come at a time when the DRC has not carried out any executions since 2003. More recently, the Congolese government has been giving positive signs in favour of abolishing the death penalty, including pledges (albeit aborted) to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the fall of 2020.

A survey published by ECPM and CPJ in 2019 entitled “Towards a Silent Death” found that there are at least 510 people on death row in the DRC, half of whom are in a remote camp in Angenga in the north of the country, far more than the official figures suggest.

This is why our organizations:

  • request the Congolese Parliament to abolish the offence of association de malfaiteurs, which provides for the mandatory death penalty and opens the way to death sentences even for minor offences;

  • recommend that the Congolese justice system avoid recourse to the procedure of flagrante delicto when it comes to offences likely to lead to a death sentence, and that it carry out serious investigations likely to establish the guilt of those prosecuted;

  • Urge the Congolese government to respect its obligations under the ICCPR, to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and to make commitments to the abolition of the death penalty, in particular by supporting the upcoming UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in December 2022.

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