Geneva/Ottawa (8 February 2016) – Ten years after prominent human rights defender Pascal Kabungulu was shot dead by soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), his family is filing a complaint before the United Nations with the help of two NGOs, TRIAL and the Canadian Centre for International Justice. The complaint before the UN Human Rights Committee comes after tireless efforts by the family and human rights groups to restart long-stalled judicial proceedings in the DRC.
Armed men in military uniforms murdered Kabungulu on 31 July 2005 in his home, in front of his family. His death followed several threats against him as a result of his human rights work with the organisation Héritiers de la Justice in Bukavu, South Kivu.
Just days after the murder, Kabungulu’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.
“Pascal was an exceptional husband and father. He was the love of my life. He was a courageous man, but also proud, funny, and tender. It has been ten years since he was taken from us, yet not a single day passes that we don’t think of him,” said Déborah Kitumaini.
The long path to justice
Despite the commencement of legal proceedings 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. Two NGOs, the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) and TRIAL have worked closely with the Kabungulus to continue pushing for justice.
“There has been a lack of political will to hold government officials accountable,” explained Matt Eisenbrandt, CCIJ’s Legal Director. “Although we welcome some positive legislative developments in the DRC, in this case the government has taken no steps to punish Pascal’s killers.”
“Pascal’s family has suffered a lot and deserves justice to be served at last,” said Philip Grant, Director of TRIAL. “We also want to shine a light on the continued danger for other human rights defenders in the DRC to help prevent further crimes against them.”
“Our family has great hope that the United Nations will render a favourable decision,” said Heri Kabungulu, son of Pascal Kabungulu. “The DRC would then be urged to reopen the investigation and punish the perpetrators: it’s time for impunity to end.”
For more information
Read the case summary on Storify (in French)
Read Deborah Kitumaini’s full interview on Storify (in English)
TRIAL (GMT +2)
Chloé Bitton – TRIAL: firstname.lastname@example.org, +41-79-192-37-44 (English and French)
CCIJ (GMT -8)
Amanda Ghahremani – CCIJ: email@example.com, +1-514-915-0920 (English and French)