Target: President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Goal: Release arbitrarily detained peaceful pro-democracy activists.
On March 15, 2015, a group of at least 26 activists was arrested in the Congolese city of Kinshasa, following a news conference organized by Filimbi, a pro-democracy youth movement supported by the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa. Two days later, during a protest in Goma, 10 Congolese were violently arrested and detained while protesting the arrests of the Kinshasa activists. Such instances of free expression violation are becoming commonplace as the country approaches its 2016 presidential elections, leading many to believe that the violence and arrests are an attempt to silence opposition of the current administration. Demand all activists in Kinshasa and Goma be immediately released and freedom of expression be restored.
The group arrested included a number of French and American citizens, all of whom were released the same day along with two Congolese citizens. The others have not been released, counseled, charged with an offense, brought before a judge or granted access to their families in direct violation of international human rights law.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), after the news conference men in military uniforms entered the studio and began arresting those involved in the broadcast. The detainees were loaded into unmarked vehicles and the French and American citizens were taken to a different location than the Congolese, Senegalese and Burkinabe citizens who were arrested. HRW reports that the vast majority of Congolese arrested that day, and all of the Burkinabe and Senegalese remain in detention at an unknown location.
Lambert Mende, Communications Minister for the Congo, told reporters that the detainees from Burkina Faso and Senegal are accused of “promoting violence” in the training and coaching of certain youth groups. The activists, reports HRW, were in Kinshasa for a youth workshop aimed at promoting civic engagement and youth mobilization. No known proof exists to support the belief that any of the activists or the organizations they participated in were geared towards any kind of violence.
Sign this petition urging the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to immediately release these arbitrarily detained activists.
Dear President Kabila,
The activists arrested following a news conference on March 15 have not been charged, have not seen a judge and have had no access to their lawyers. Without being charged with an offense, the detention of these peaceful activists is arbitrary, an action in direct violation of international human rights law.
As the 2016 Congolese presidential elections approach, arrests like these point to an active attempt to curb free expression.
I urge you to immediately release these peaceful activists.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: ChrisEngelsma via Wikimedia Commons