29 February 2012
Brussels, 29 February 2012 – Upon release of the documentary The Cheyeba affair. Duty of Justice today in Belgian theaters, Avocats Sans Frontières reemphasises the need for impartial justice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Directed by Belgian filmmaker Thierry Michel, the film examines the trial of those accused of being responsible for the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya. ASF stresses that the importance of this ongoing trial should not undermine the right to a fair trial for both the families of victims and the accused.
Besides the interests of the families of the victims (Mr. Chebeya and his driver), the Chebeya case has a strong symbolic value. Partly due to the prominence of the Congolese human rights activist (Chebeya headed the NGO “Voice of the Voiceless”), this value is mainly because of the challenges in achieving justice in the present Congolese justice system. “This trial must continue without any potential pressure on the part of the State, civil society and the parties concerned “, said Francesca Boniotti, Executive Director of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF). The material and legal resources available must allow the circumstances of Mr. Chebeya’s death to be ascertained, as well as any potential personal liabilities. Finally, the proceedings must be carried out in such a way as to guarantee the legitimate interests and rights of all parties without exception, both within the prosecution and the defense.
Mr. Chebeya was found dead in his car on 2 June 2010 in Kinshasa. The body of his driver, Fidele Bazana, has still not been found. ASF expressed its disappointment following the issuance of death sentences for some of the accused in the first verdict given in June 2011 by the military court in charge of the case.
Following this first judgment, the trial is now at the appeal stage and the investigation will be carried out again. ASF is directly involved in the procedure, with the organization defending the interests of the prosecuting parties (including the brothers of Chebeya).
Due to this involvement, ASF cannot comment on the details of the case. However, “we have been committed to the fight against impunity in DR Congo for the past ten years, but the quest for the truth matters more to us than a decision at any cost”, said Francesca Boniotti.
For film director Thierry Michel (Congo River, Katanga Business,…), this movie on the Chebeya affair will “substantially contribute to educating and raising awareness on the issues of justice, conflict resolution and […] peace between the political actors and the different layers of the Congolese and African population.”
Avocats Sans Frontières is participating in several evening debates organized by various bar associations, following the release of the film in Brussels and other Belgian cities.