Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was a leading Congolese human rights defender. He was the Director of Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless), a prominent human rights organisation in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Floribert's work led to him being issued with numerous and repetitive threats from police. Finally on the 3rd June Floribert was found dead.
Floribert had been called to central Police headquarters requiring him to attend a meeting with the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police. No reason was given for the meeting. For reasons unknown to Floribert's family Floribert was not able to meet the inspector, and just before 8pm he informed his family by SMS that he was returning to the city.
His body was found the following morning, Wednesday 2 June, in his abandoned car in the outskirts of Kinshasa.
According to police sources, Floribert's body showed no signs of violence. However, the deputy executive director of VSV was not allowed to view the body on 2 June. Fidèle Bazana Edadi, who was Floribert's friend and driver also disappeared on 1 June. The body of Mr Edadi was reportedly found on Thursday 3 June, which would confirm that both human rights defenders were assassinated.
Front Line believes that the presumed assassination of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire is a direct result of his legitimate work in defence of human rights in DRC. Front Line is also gravely concerned for the security of the family of Floribert, Fidele and other members of the VSV. The climate in which human rights defenders work within DRC is becoming increasingly dangerous in an attempt to curtail this type of work.
On 23 June a military court in DRC announced the verdict in the trial of the alleged killers of human rights defender and founder of Voix Des Sans Voix, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire. Four of the accused were sentenced to death, one was sentenced to life imprisonment and three were acquitted.
While Front Line welcomes the conviction of those involved in the killing of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, the organisation urges the DRC Minister for Justice to commute the death sentences.
One of those sentenced to death is Colonel Daniel Mukalay who was Chief of Police Intelligence at the time of the killing of Floribert Chebeya Bahizire and his driver Fidèle Bazana and whom the judge identified as the intellectual author of the crime. At the time of his killing Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was on his way to a meeting with Police General John Numbi who remains suspended from his post "pending investigation". To date there has been no outcome from this investigation and his role in the killing remains unclear.
An additional concern is that three of the policemen sentenced to death were convicted in absentia as they are on the run while no verdict has been issued relative to the killing of Floribert's driver Fidèle Bazana whose body has still not been recovered.