Resuming the Chebeya trial

26 October 2012

A small victory for a distant truth

 Kinshasa – Brussels, 26 October 2012 – Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF) believes that there are still legal avenues to investigate General John Numbi’s role in the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya. ASF does not see the judgement delivered by the Military High Court in Kinshasa on Tuesday as precluding the right to file charges against General Numbi. Mr. Chebeya’s siblings supported by ASF are also waiting for the Military Prosecutors’ Office to launch an investigation concerning the General.

 Following a suspension lasting several weeks, the Chebeya trial resumed on 23 October 2012. The Military High Court in Kinshasa considered that the trial in progress would not allow General Numbi to be indicted directly, since the public prosecutor had not brought charges against him. But it also noted that the prosecution, including the victim’s family, could call on the military prosecutor to open an enquiry into the General. “The Court is not definitively closing the door on investigating the General’s possible responsibility. This is already a small victory”, said Chantal Van Cutsem, ASF Coordinator for the Great Lakes region.

Mr. Chebeya’s brothers and sisters, represented by ASF, filed charges against General Numbi with the Military Prosecutor’s Office on 30 July. The charges are based on the existence of contradictory elements in the statements made by the General and other parties during the trial, and on the recent statements by film director Thierry Michel and a co-defendant, Major Milawbwe. To date, the Military Prosecutor’s Office has yet to publish its final decision on what action should be taken regarding the charges. The plaintiffs are expecting that this will lead to a full enquiry, to be passed to the judges for examination.

At the same time, Mr Chebeya’s brothers and sisters have obtained a decision from the Military High Court to order additional investigations. “This confirms that not everything has been done to find out the whole truth, neither during the investigation nor during the first trial”, said Chantal Van Cutsem. “We are staying vigilant to ensure that the investigations are carried out quickly and thoroughly.”

ASF calls on the Congolese justice system to mobilise all the material and legal resources available to establish as clearly as possible the circumstances surrounding Mr Chebeya’s death, as well as potential individual responsibilities. The proceedings must be carried out in such a way as to guarantee the legitimate interests and rights of all parties without exception.

Floribert Chebeya, the leader of the Congolese NGO “Voice of the Voiceless”, was found dead in his car in Kinshasa on 2 June 2010. Several elements of the enquiry suggested that his death might implicate various military figures and State security services.

Cover picture: The lawyers of ASF participate in the Chebeya trial, 2012 © Junior D. Kannah
Picture: Floribert Chebeya © La Passerelle

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