Church agencies, including Britain's Christian Aid, are calling on the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to act urgently in the case of Pascal Kubungulu Kibembi who was brutally murdered two years ago. It also says the UK government should call for the case to be reopened.
Pascal Kubungulu was the secretary-general of Heritiers de la Justice, a leading human rights organisation supported by Christian Aid based in Bukavu in the eastern part of the DRC.
He was also vice president of the regional human rights umbrella group in the Great Lakes, the Ligue des Droits de l'Homme dans la Région des Grands Lacs. Kabungulu was 55 when armed men broke into his home in Bukavu on 31 July 2005 and shot him dead in front of his family.
One of the attackers apparently said: "We were looking for you, and today is the day of your death."
The court case has been suspended since 12 December 2005 when the judge deemed himself ineligible to preside as he was inferior in rank to the two main suspects – a vice-governor and a high ranking military officer.
Following the suspension, human rights activists met with the President of the DRC, Joseph Kabila, who promised a speedy resolution to the case. In February this year a high ranking legal official promised to reopen the case as soon as possible. So far no legal procedures have started.
‘Only by having a truly fair trial can the government demonstrate to all that accountable governance has begun to take root in the country,’ said Paul Watson, Christian Aid’s regional manager for Central Africa. ‘Pascal was a determined fighter for human rights and his murder is a huge loss in the fight for democracy and good governance in the DRC.
‘We are calling on the UK government to pressure the DRC government to re-open Pascal’s case. It should also take the lead in implementing the EU guidelines for the protection of human rights defenders.’
Military officials have also promised to follow up on the case of the journalist Serge Maheshe. He ran the UN-backed Radio Okapi in Bukavu and was shot dead in the street in June 2007. No action has been taken so far. He was the third journalist to be killed in the DRC since 2005.
Journalistes en Danger (JED), which is based in Kinshasa, has been very active in denouncing cases where journalists have been targeted, imprisoned, persecuted or threatened. JED has also been active in calling for justice to be brought against those accused of attacks against journalists.
A documentary on the case and on the work of human rights activists, ‘Weapons of Impunity’, will be screened in Bukavu on the anniversary of Pascal Kubungulu’s death.
In May 2002, Mr Kabungulu went to London to help launch Christian Aid's report, Listen to Africa. At the launch, he shared a platform with Bob Geldof and, although he was nervous about speaking in English, many will remember his moving and eloquent speech. On the same trip, he also met Tony Blair.