DRC: Grant Goma suspects full access to lawyers and family visits

About 50 people arrested by the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in a security clampdown after armed gunmen attacked Goma airport and other parts of the city two weeks ago must urgently be granted full access to lawyers, be allowed family visits and presented before court to assess the legality of their detention, Amnesty International urged today.

 “The Congolese Constitution is very clear on the rights of people arrested and detained,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“Detention without access to family members and lawyers increases the risk of torture and other ill-treatment. They are also at risk of enforced disappearance”.

Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

 Four people including two members of the Presidential Guard in charge of airport security were killed in the attack on 2 June.

 The following day 32 people were rounded up and arrested during a security clampdown by the national police, the Presidential Guard and the National Intelligence Agency (ANR).  At least 43 further people were subsequently arrested bringing the total in detention to 75.  Of those, approximately 25 people have been released, according to a former detainee.

 The rest are still held at the ANR jail in Goma and have been denied access to lawyers and family visits in violation of Article 18(3) of the Congolese constitution.

 Speaking to Amnesty International, some family members of those arrested confirmed that they were yet to establish direct communications with their relatives. Some of those held are seriously sick and in need of urgent medical attention.

 “We have desperately been trying to get access to my brother who is amongst those arrested but every time we tried we were barred from seeing him,” lamented a family member who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Now we fear for the worst, not sure if he is dead or alive,” they said.

 Amnesty International is concerned that the authorities have neither released nor transferred those arrested to a competent judicial authority within 48 hours, as provided for in Article 18 (3) of the Congolese Constitution. 

 “Matters of national security should never be used as an excuse by the DRC authorities to disregard due process for people and their international human rights obligations,” said Sarah Jackson.

 Amnesty International urges the Congolese government to ensure that those detained are not subject to torture and other ill-treatment and uphold detainees’ right to be brought without delay before a competent court to challenge the legality of their detention.