A Senegalese investigating magistrate on Tuesday “heard the plaintiffs to confirm the complaint, thus signifying the beginning of the judicial investigation”, according to a communiqué from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
FIDH and the victims’ families on June 2 filed a complaint before the Senegalese courts against Paul Mwilambwe, one of the suspected perpetrators of the double murder. The complaint was filed on the basis of universal jurisdiction, since the suspect is living in Senegal.
“Since the attempts to shed light on the double murder of these defenders seemed to be blocked in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), our organisations welcome the efforts of the Senegalese judicial authorities and urge them to continue the judicial investigations into this highly symbolic case,” says FIDH.
Senegal has passed legislation allowing its courts to try some crimes committed outside the country. This allowed it to launch proceedings against former Chadian President Hissène Habré, who is currently detained in Dakar.
“This first hearing of the plaintiffs is a fundamental act that marks the opening of the judicial proceedings in Senegal,” said Patrick Baudouin, FIDH Honorary President and head of Litigation Action Group (LAG). “The next step is for a Senegalese judge to convene and hear Paul Mwilambwe, who played a role in this tragedy.”
Paul Mwilambwe, a major in the Congolese National Police force (PNC), was in charge of security for the office of General John Numbi, Head of the PNC at the time of the events. Several human rights groups say it was in General Numbi’s offices that Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana were tortured and killed.
After the killings, Paul Mwilambwe fled the DRC, finally settling in Senegal.
Whilst still on the run, Mwilambwe gave a filmed interview to France 24 in which he denounced the role and involvement of senior Congolese police officers, including General John Numbi.
Floribert Chebeya, Executive Director of the NGO Voix des sans-Voix (Voice of the Voiceless), was found dead in his car in a suburb of Kinshasa on June 2, 2010. His close associate Fidèle Bazana was also reported missing. The day before, the two had gone to PNC headquarters to meet with its Director and General John Numbi.
The international community considers that Congolese judicial proceedings in this highly sensitive case have been neither complete nor independent.