GENEVA (3 June 2010) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed shock and great sadness at the news of the death of one of the top human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Floribert Chebeya Bahizire. Mr. Chebeya’s body was found on the outskirts of Kinshasa on Wednesday. Human rights organizations in Kinshasa reported his disappearance after he was summoned to police headquarters the previous day.
“For more than 20 years, Chebeya Bahizire had survived many death threats, arrests, and ill treatment due to his work as a human rights defender. He believed in the cause of human rights and was not afraid to pursue it against all odds,” Pillay said.
Chebeya Bahizire was the President of Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless - VSV) a NGO he founded in 1988. He was also the Executive Secretary of the Réseau National des ONG des Droits de l’homme de la République démocratique du Congo (DRC National Network of Human Rights NGOs - RENADHOC). Over the past decade, the VSV and Chebeya Bahizire in particular have focused on human rights abuses in some of the most politically sensitive areas in the DRC, namely corruption in the military and the links between militias and foreign political forces.
He was considered by many as the pioneer of the human rights movement in President Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire and continued to denounce human rights violations under former President Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the current Government. He was described by his colleagues as a pure product of a rare generation of human rights activists to whom fraternity and solidarity with colleagues and closeness to victims meant more than anything else.
The High Commissioner is deeply concerned with the growing trend of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents as well as victims and witnesses in the DCR and sees the death of Chebeya Bahizire as confirming an extremely worrying development which she had noted in her last report on the DRC.
“His death is a great loss to the human rights community not only in the DRC but in the wider world. I urge the DRC authorities to promptly and rigorously investigate the death of Chebeya Bahizire and spare no efforts to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.”
OHCHR County Page – Democratic Republic of the Congo: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/ZRIndex.aspx