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DRC violated right to life of prominent human rights defender Pascal Kabungulu, UN Committee finds

GENEVA (13 January 2021) – The UN Human Rights Committee has found the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) violated the right to life of Pascal Kabungulu who was killed in an extrajudicial execution, in front of his family.

Kabungulu was a leading human rights defender committed to the fight against corruption and impunity in the DRC. A journalist by training, he served as Executive Secretary of Héritiers de la Justice, a well-known human rights group that had uncovered and documented human rights violations and war crimes in the country. 

In the early hours on 31 July, 2005, three armed men wearing masks and uniforms broke into Kabungulu’s house in the town of Bukavu. The alleged state agents grabbed the 55-year old human rights defender and shot him in front of his wife and children. They stole Kabungulu's computer and some personal belongings before fleeing.

Non-governmental human rights organizations immediately denounced his killing. Several military officers were arrested shortly after his murder. Nevertheless, Kabungulu’s widow and children had to leave the DRC after being threatened. The family sought refuge in Kampala, Uganda. They remained in Uganda for almost a year, living in difficult conditions, before obtaining refugee status and settling in Canada in September 2006.

They continued their efforts to bring those responsible to justice. However, after more than 15 years of legal and political efforts, no decision has been made on the criminal trial for Kabungulu’s murder. Faced with the silence and inaction of the country's judicial bodies, which are no longer even able to locate the case file, Pascal Kabungulu's family turned to the Committee in 2016.

In its decision, the Committee stated that the DRC had violated Kabungulu's right to life and deprived his family of any access to an effective remedy by refusing to investigate the facts.

"We regret the lack of cooperation by the DRC in bringing justice to his family. The authorities’ inaction in such a blatant case of extrajudicial execution is extremely worrying," said Committee member Yadh Ben Achour. "The protection of human rights defenders is fundamental to ensuring a just society based on the rule of law," he added.

The Committee calls on the DRC to pursue the investigation and criminal proceedings into Pascal Kubunglu’s murder in a prompt, effective and transparent manner and to provide his family with adequate compensation.

The full decision is now available online.


For more information and media requests in Geneva, please contact:
Vivian Kwok at +41 (0) 22 917 9362 / vkwok@ohchr.orgor UN Human Rights Office Media Section at +41 (0) 22 928 9855 / media@ohchr.org 

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has been ratified by 173 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

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