The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) should intervene and ensure that the frivolous charges against Congolese human rights activist Golden Misabiko are dropped immediately, said campaign group Global Witness today. Misabiko, president of the Association africaine de défense des droits de l'homme (ASADHO) in Katanga province, was sentenced to four months in detention and eight months' suspended prison sentence on 23 September.
Misabiko was arrested on 24 July 2009 by the Agence nationale de renseignements (ANR), the national intelligence agency, in the provincial capital Lubumbashi. He was charged with "threatening state security" [atteinte à la sûreté de l'Etat] and defamation. He was released on bail on 20 August.
Misabiko's arrest was a response to the publication of a report by ASADHO-Katanga on the Shinkolobwe uranium mine. The report alleged that state institutions and officials were profiting from illegal mining; it also criticised the lack of transparency surrounding an agreement between the DRC government and the French nuclear company AREVA, which granted AREVA exploration and mining rights to the site.
"The arrest, detention and now the sentence imposed on Golden Misabiko can only be seen as part of a concerted attack against activists reporting on abuses in the mining sector in Katanga," said Patrick Alley, Director of Global Witness.
In a further alarming development, four other human rights activists, who have campaigned for Misabiko's release, have received deaths threats on at least two occasions in the past week. Emmanuel Umpula Nkumba (Executive Director of Action contre l'impunité pour les droits humains and OECD Watch), Grégoire Mulamba (Executive Secretary of the Centre des Droits de l'Homme et du Droit Humanitaire) and Timothée Mbuya (Vice President of ASADHO-Katanga) received anonymous death threats by text messages that ‘they would be next' and that ‘once they were dead they'd be unable to organize any more marches'. Threats were also made against a fourth person, Dominique Munongo, head of the Centre de développement pour la femme.
‘These persistent attempts to silence activists in Katanga show that the Congolese government does not want transparency in the mining sector,' said Patrick Alley.
Golden Misabiko has campaigned on human rights and transparency for many years in Katanga. He has been intimidated, arrested and detained several times previously in relation to his work.
Other activists in Katanga, particularly those who have denounced fraud, corruption and other abuses in the mining sector, have also been arrested and threatened repeatedly over the past several years.
For further information, see Global Witness press release "Global Witness calls for immediate release of Congo human rights activist", 17 August 2009; and RAID briefing "Conviction of Golden Misabiko, and threats against four other human rights activists - a signal that the mining interests of the DRC's political and military establishment are ‘off limits'", 24 September 2009.
Contact Emilie Serralta (in English/French) on +44 207 492 5855, or Amy Barry (in English) on +44 7980 664397, [email protected]