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The murder of Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi in the early morning of 31 July 2005 constitutes one of several attacks that have targeted human rights defenders in the DRC. Armed men in military uniforms murdered Pascal in his home, in front of his family. Pascal’s widow, Deborah Kitumaini Kasiba, and her children, now live in Canada and continue to search for justice. CCIJ and Swiss-based TRIAL support the family in that struggle.
Despite the commencement of legal proceedings in the DRC in 2005, the prosecution effectively ended when witnesses implicated high-ranking officials in the murder and the case was transferred to a higher court. Since then, efforts by the family and human rights organizations have been unable to convince authorities to restart the trial. As a result, the family is now filing a complaint before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Pascal Kabungulu Kibembi was born on 17 May 1950 in South-Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After obtaining a diploma in linguistics and teaching at the college level, he joined the prominent human rights organization Héritiers de la justice in 1994. By 1999, he was the Secretary General of the organization, and Vice-President of the human rights umbrella organization Ligue des droits de l’homme dans la region Grands lacs. In his work in Bukavu, Pascal was responsible for denouncing corruption and grave violations of human rights in the DRC, a cause which he actively continued to promote until the time of his death in 2005.
Investigations in the DRC have not resulted in accountability for those responsible for Pascal’s murder. Shortly after the murder, two soldiers were detained, a Commission of Inquiry was called and a military court commenced proceedings. The military court held several hearings. When witnesses implicated two high-ranking officials in the murder, the officials were initially detained but then immediately released. In December 2005, the military court ruled that it no longer had jurisdiction because the high-ranking officials were implicated in the murder. The case was transferred to the Military High Court and there the prosecution effectively ended. Despite tireless efforts by Pascal’s family and human rights groups to restart the case, no further legal action has taken place. The murder of Pascal Kabungulu remains unpunished.Just days after the murder, Pascal’s wife, Déborah Kitumaini, also came under threat and had to flee the country with her six children. The family eventually resettled as refugees in Canada, where they now run the Pascal Kabungulu Foundation, which supports the families of human rights defenders assassinated in the DRC.
In 2013, CCIJ sent a letter to the Congolese Minister of Justice calling for steps to ensure that the case advances. To date we have not received any response.
In February 2016, Déborah and her children filed a complaint before the United Nations Human Rights Committee with the support of CCIJ and TRIAL. The family is asking the Committee to find that Pascal’s rights and their rights were violated and to urge the DRC to reopen the investigation and punish the perpetrators.
The complaint to the U.N. Human Rights Committee is not available at this time.