(Press Release, January 12, 2015): “Abusers of human rights will have no hiding place” says Liberia’s Foremost Human Rights Lawyer, Atty. Samuel Kofi Woods, II. Woods made these remarks when he hailed the Government and People of Senegal on the arrest of Mayor Paul Mwilambwe of the Congolese Police on the grounds of universal jurisdiction.
Paul Mwilambwe, a majorsuspect in the Chebeya-Bazana case was indicted by the Senegalese courts
and placed under court supervision in Dakar on Thursday, 8 January 2015.
He was arrested following the complaint filed by FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and its member and partner organizations in DRC in Dakar on the grounds of universal jurisdiction, the Senegalese courts charged Paul Mwilambwe and placed him under court supervision thereby reviving the case of the human rights defenders who were assassinated in DRC in June 2010.
This decision was taken following a criminal complaint based on universal jurisdiction filed on 2 June 2014 by lawyers of the
FIDH Litigation Action Group (LAG) and the families of Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana, the two Congolese human rights defenders who were assassinated in June 2010.
Atty. Woods has welcome the efforts of the Senegalese judicial authorities and expect
these judicial proceedings to contribute to identifying the persons responsible for these assassinations and the disappearance of these two eminent human rights defenders.
This indictment is an important step to international justice and affirms the pursuit of justice is not a futile journey Woods continued.
This is the first time since the Hissène Habré case that a case based on extra-territorial jurisdiction is being tried in Senegal, a
step which sends a strong, positive signal showing that the Senegalese judiciary intends to play an active role in the fight against impunity for the most serious crimes committed in Africa.
On 10 January 2014, the lawyers for LAG and for the Chebeya and Bazana families had already filed an ordinary complaint against Paul Mwilambwe and all the others for the crime of torture, based on Senegal’s extraterritorial competence law of 12 February 2007, which integrates the United Nations Convention against Torture in domestic law.
Under this provision of the Senegalese Penal Code, Senegalese courts can judge all persons suspected of torture if they are found in Senegal, even if the victim or perpetrator of the crime is not Senegalese, and even if the crime was not committed in Senegal.
As this January complaint had remained unanswered, FIDH and the victims’ families filed a further complaint, this time as civil parties, on 2 June 2014. Under Senegalese law, this almost always leads to the initiation of a public prosecution.
In August 2014, the Senegalese judiciary followed up on the new complaint and heard the plaintiffs, thereby officially opening the judicial investigation.
“Since the Democratic Republic of Congo did not provide for equitable judicial proceedings, these proceedings were initiated in Senegal to ensure that an impartial, independent investigation would be carried out and that full information would be obtained on the murder and the enforced disappearance of the victims, Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana.
Paul Mwilambwe, a major in the Congolese National Police force (PNC), was in charge of security for the office of General John Numbi, Head of the PNC at the time of the events, in the premises where Floribert Chebeya and Fidèle Bazana were killed. Shortly after these killings, Paul Mwilambwe fled to a country somewhere in Africa before going to Senegal.
In a filmed interview with France 24, whilst still on the run, Mwilambwe testified and denounced his own participation and the role and involvement of senior members of the Congolese police, including General John Numbi in the enforced
disappearance and murder of the two human rights defenders.
“For us, this arrest gives us great hope to obtain the truth and justice that was refused us in Congo where the justice system is bogged down. I want to know where my husband was buried. I want someone to tell me where he is. And I want to be able to bury him with dignity”, said Marie-José Bazana, the wife of Fidèle Bazana whose body has still not been found.