EXTERNAL AI Index: AFR 62/03/97
EXTRA 11/97 Death penalty 29 January 1997
ZAIREDr Joseph Kanku Pinganay, medical doctor
On 28 January 1997 a court-martial (conseil de guerre) sitting in the northern
Zairian town of Kisangani sentenced Dr Joseph Kanku Pinganay to death. The
tribunal found him guilty of espionage by revealing the positions of Zairian
government forces to members of the Tutsi-led armed group known as the Alliance
des forces démocratiques pour la libération du Congo-Zaire (AFDL), Alliance
of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. Dr Pinganay, who was
given 24 hours in which to appeal, is reported to have been represented by
legal counsel during the trial.
Dr Pinganay is a leader of a political party known as the Mouvement pour le
redressement national et la radiation du chomage (MRNRC), Movement for National
Recovery and Ending Unemployment. Before his arrest on 28 December 1996, Dr
Pinganay owned a dispensary at Nia-Nia, a town to the northeast of Kisangani.
Due to communication problems with Kisangani, Amnesty International has not
yet been able to obtain sufficient information to establish the fairness of
the trial. It is unclear whether Dr Pinganay has been able to appeal against
his sentence and conviction, and if so, when and where the appeal will be heard.
Amnesty International is concerned that Dr Pinganay could be executed if the
sentence is confirmed by the appeal court. Amnesty International is
unconditionally opposed to the death penalty on the grounds that it is cruel,
inhuman or degrading punishment and violates the ultimate right to life.
Fighting in eastern Zaire since October 1996, and the subsequent takeover of
parts of Zairian territory by the AFDL armed group, has served to heighten
tensions in much of the country. Thousands of soldiers fleeing from advancing
AFDL combatants have carried out human rights violations, including
extrajudicial executions, rape, torture and looting. In late October 1996
dozens of arrests of civilians and soldiers accused of being accomplices of
the AFDL took place. Many of those arrested are believed to be still detained
in the capital, Kinshasa, and Kisangani.
In a bid to recapture territory lost to the AFDL, the Zairian Government has
since December 1996 been carrying out a reshuffle in the leadership of the
Zairian security forces. In early January 1997 the new Minister of Defence,
General Likulia Bolongo, announced that the army would carry out a
counter-offensive which would spare no Zairian or foreign national supporting
the AFDL. He also announced that the armed forces must rid themselves of
criminals, runaways, pillagers and vagabonds who must be punished by
court-martials in a severe and spectacular manner. At least 20 officers of
the armed forces accused of unspecified criminal activities are reported to
be in custody awaiting trial.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
French or your own language:
- expressing concern at the death sentence imposed by a court-martial in
Kisangani on Dr Joseph Kanku Pinganay;
- urging that he be given adequate opportunity to exercise his right to appeal
to an independent and impartial higher appeal court;