Death penalty for 49 people for the murder of UN experts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Death penalty for 49 people for the murder of UN experts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

A military court Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) today sentenced 49 people to the death penalty -which is not applied in the country and would translate de facto into life imprisonment- for the murder of two UN experts in 2017, confirmed Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“The investigation and, ultimately, this trial have failed to bring to light the full truth about what happened.”lamented through Twitter Thomas Fessy, researcher for the DRC of this human rights organization, when confirming the sentence.

The defendants in the trial, which took place in a military court in the city of Kananga, were a total of 54 – for most of whom the Military Prosecutor’s Office had requested the death penalty – although 22 were tried in absentia because they were fugitives.

A colonel named Jean de Dieu Mambweni was sentenced to ten years in prison after being found guilty of “violating orders and failing to help a person in danger”, according to local media.

The court pointed out that, instead of dissuading the experts (the American Michael Sharp and the Swedish-Chilean Zaida Catalán), the colonel planned the trip in which both ended up disappearing without informing their superiors.

“The court did not look higher in the chain of command, overlooking the responsibility of the Stateor,” Fessy denounced, nonetheless.

The defendants were charged with belonging to an insurrectionary movement, criminal association, war crime for murder, war crime for mutilation or terrorism, among others.

On the other hand, the journalist Raphael Kamuzadi and a police officer, accused respectively of having supplied machetes to the rebels who were blamed for the murder and of having been found with a photo of one of the militia leaders, were acquitted for lack of evidence after spent four years in prison.

The lifeless bodies of Sharp and Catalán were found on March 27, 2017, two weeks after their trail was lost – along with that of four other Congolese workers – while investigating human rights violations in this province.

Both experts were members of the group created by the UN to monitor the sanctions imposed on the country by the United Nations Security Council.

Initially, the Congolese government blamed the crime on the Kamuina Nsapu militia, which in 2016 rose up against the authorities in Central Kasai to avenge the death of their leader at the hands of the Army.

Their clashes with the security forces caused hundreds of deaths and nearly half a million displaced people.

A UN investigation in 2017 concluded that the two experts may have been victims of a random ambush by a militia, but did not rule out possible involvement by the authorities.

“The Congolese authorities, with the support of the UN, should now investigate the fundamental role that high officials may have played in the murders”Fessy said this Saturday, while the Swedish embassy in the DRC called for the investigation to continue. “to advance further in discovering the truth and doing justice.”

The trial for the crime began in 2017 and was hampered on multiple occasions by contradictions and delays.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.