Congolese activist lives in fear after attack

Amnesty International has urged the Congolese authorities to protect a human rights activist after she was attacked by armed men at her home last month.Clemence Bakatuseka, who works on behalf of victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), told Amnesty International that she lives in fear of further attacks after police demanded a “protection fee” to help her.”It is unacceptable for the police to tell somebody who has been attacked and threatened they will do nothing to protect her unless they receive a payment,” said Claire Morclette of Amnesty International’s Africa programme.”From the moment the police were informed of the attack against Clemence Bakatuseka, they had an obligation to take steps to protect her right to life and right to security of person. “The government must immediately conduct an impartial investigation into the attack and bring those responsible to justice.” On the evening of 4 October, Clemence Bakatuseka was at home with her children in the North Kivu town of Beni when six men in military uniforms forced their way in. They fired shots and demanded that she hand over money. After neighbours raised the alarm, the gunmen fled after firing one more shot.Clemence Bakatuseka, coordinator of the Great Lakes Human Rights Programme (GLHRP) in Beni, said the men wanted money which is used to support the work of the organization on judicial assistance to victims of sexual violence. The attack is the first time that she has been threatened with guns although her house was searched by unidentified individuals in July 2009.Clemence Bakatuseka told Amnesty International: “I am still feeling traumatized. I am very disappointed at the manner in which the authorities have handled my case, particularly the police, who are supposed to be on the side of the people. I have called for help, but the police asked me to pay a monthly fee of US$250 to receive protection, which I cannot afford.”Human rights activists in the DRC regularly face harassment, death threats and violence.A number of murders have taken place in Beni in the last few months, including that of journalist Patient Chebeya, killed by soldiers in April 2010 and human rights activist Salvatore Muhindo, from the non-governmental organization Bon Samaritains in June.That same month, Floribert Chebeya Bahizire, one of the country’s most prominent human rights activists, was found dead the day after he was summoned to attend a meeting with Kinshasa police.”The Congolese government must act to protect all of the country’s human rights defenders who are at grave risk solely for carrying out their legitimate work,” said Claire Morclette.”The authorities must also address the impunity related to attacks against human rights defenders.”Clemence Bakatuseka and the GLHRP have successfully campaigned to have civilians and members of the armed forces convicted for committing acts of sexual violence.