47th Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, 12-27 May, Banjul, The Gambia
Death in Custody in the Republic of Congo
Joint Statement of IHRDA and OCDH on violations of the Right to Life, Physical Integrity and Security of a Person
The Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and l’Observatoire congolais des droits de l’homme (OCDH) would like to bring to the attention of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recurrent and serious violations of the right to life, physical integrity and security of a person in the Republic of Congo.
Indeed, from 2007 till date, IHRDA and OCDH have identified a significant number of cases of deaths in custody often resulting from arbitrary or illegal arrests. Despite the existence of irrefutable evidence of acts of torture and inhuman treatment in which victims of deaths in custody were in most cases exposed, the Congolese authorities have not taken measures to clarify the circumstances of these deaths. On the contrary, police officials suspected of having committed acts of torture or inhuman treatment against persons who died in custody are simply transferred to other services and complaints filed by the families of victims are closed without further action by the competent courts to consider them.
This is a blatant violation of the right to life, physical integrity and security of a person, a right protected by Articles 4 and 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Among the many cases of deaths in custody in the Republic of Congo, an example can be given of the case of a 37-year-old Congolese citizen who died on 23 January 2007 as a result of torture and inhuman treatment in a police station in Brazzaville or the case another resident of Brazzaville, the Congolese capital, who was arbitrarily arrested on 22 October 2008 and died from torture on 30 October 2007. With respect to these selected cases among many others, the Congolese authorities have at no point in time initiated investigations despite complaints from the families of victims and repeated calls from certain human rights organizations.
In this context, IHRDA and OCDH are seriously disturbed by the fact that the few times where investigations were initiated on cases of deaths in custody in the Republic of Congo, they were either not independent or were initiated under pressure from the families of victims. In fact, the impunity enjoyed by police officials suspected of acts of torture or inhuman treatment against persons who died in custody is one of the causes of recurrence of deaths in custody in the Republic of Congo.
With regard to the foregoing, IHRDA and OCDH call on the ACHPR to urge the government of the Republic of Congo to:
- Take measures to ensure effective implementation of the Robben Island Guidelines on torture;
- Introduce legislation implementing the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment in order to allow the applicability of its provisions at the domestic level;
- Expedite investigation, whenever there is a death in custody, in a prompt way;
- Initiate judicial proceedings against police officials suspected of committing acts of arbitrary arrest, torture or inhuman treatment against persons who die in custody;
- Adopt measures to provide effective remedies for the families of victims of death in custody who have filed complaints before Congolese courts.
 Congo ratified the African Charter on Human and Persons’ Rights on 09/12/1982 and submitted the instruments of ratification on 17/01/1983.
 See for example l’Observatoire congolais des droits de l’homme, Press Release CP 070602 of 6 February 2007.