South Sudan

Bashir Leaves South Africa After Humiliation

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) authorities should promptly and properly exhume a mass grave that may contain the bodies of people forcibly disappeared or executed by Congolese security forces, here Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 5, mind 2015, stomach the families of 34 victims filed a public complaint with Congo’s national prosecutor requesting justice and the exhumation of the mass grave in Maluku, a rural area about 80 kilometres from the capital, Kinshasa.

Local residents, opposition leaders, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO), and human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have raised concerns about a March 19 night-time mass burial, in which government security forces participated, on the edge of Maluku’s Fula-Fula cemetery.

The government has neither exhumed the gravesite nor revealed the identities of those buried there, according to human rights group.

“Two months since the discovery of the mass grave in Maluku, Congolese authorities have yet to provide clarity about who is buried there,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Families of victims of human rights abuses have a right to know if their loved ones are among those buried in the grave.”

The authorities should immediately conduct a proper exhumation with the assistance of international experts, Human Rights Watch said.

It further said foreign governments and the UN should support the investigation, including by providing forensics experts to help exhume the bodies and conduct DNA testing.

The unusual circumstances of the burial heighten concerns that the cemetery is being used to hide victims of government abuses, Human Rights Watch said.


A woman from Maluku told Human Rights Watch that at about 2 a.m. on March 19, as she was walking home from a night vigil at her church, she saw a large dump truck enter the Fula-Fula cemetery. She said that more than a dozen men in military uniform were in the truck, as well as some in civilian clothes, and that a large white tarpaulin covered the truck’s contents.

A man who has a farm next to the cemetery said that at about 5 a.m. on March 19 he saw a large dump truck and people shovelling soil at the edge of the cemetery.

When returning to his home that morning, men he believed were intelligence officers stopped him and asked him what he had seen at the cemetery.

In the days and weeks that followed, unidentified men came to his home on at least four occasions and later came to his workplace and accused him of having “divulged the secret” about the mass grave. In early April, he received a call from an unidentified man who said: “You, just wait. You’re going to die.”

The discovery of the mass grave came in the context of increasing political tensions and a worsening crackdown on activists, political leaders, and others who have opposed attempts to allow Congo’s President Joseph Kabila to stay in power beyond late 2016, when his constitutionally mandated two-term limit ends.

On April 3, Evariste Boshab, Congo’s vice prime minister and interior minister, announced during a meeting with other senior government and security officials, Human Rights Watch, a MONUSCO representative, and Congolese journalists, that 421 bodies had been buried in a mass grave.

He said the burial was a “normal procedure” and that the bodies included indigents whose families could not afford burial, unidentified bodies, and stillborn babies.

But Congolese Red Cross officials and hospital and morgue employees told Human Rights Watch the burial was not normal procedure. They said it is common practice for stillborn babies to be buried within a day or two, often in designated areas in hospital grounds, or by the families themselves in cemeteries.

Indigents and unidentified bodies are usually buried during the day in low-cost caskets in a dignified burial in one of Kinshasa’s cemeteries, if no one claims the body following a public announcement.

Boshab said in the meeting that if there were any doubts about who was buried in the site, the bodies would be exhumed.

Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba, also present at the meeting, echoed Boshab’s commitment to exhume the bodies if there were any remaining doubts.

Ghislain Mwehu Kahozi, a public prosecutor who is leading a judicial investigation into the mass grave, told Human Rights Watch on May 11 that 12 families of people allegedly killed or forcibly disappeared by security forces in 2013 and 2014 had filed individual legal complaints calling for an exhumation of the bodies. He said his team was working to confirm the allegations before making a decision.

The prosecutor said the site was well protected. However, Human Rights Watch visited the site on the afternoon of May 11, and found the area deserted and unguarded. The site was marked off with rudimentary wooden fencing and police tape, unlikely to deter anyone intent on tampering with evidence.

“The growing number of legal complaints from family members whose loved ones have disappeared highlights the urgency of exhuming the mass grave,” Sawyer said.

“The Congolese government should make good on its promise to exhume the bodies and properly protect the grave until that occurs.”
Sudan dictator, find Omar Al Bashir, visit this site has left South Africa where he survived arrest and being handed over to the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

The High Court had grounded Bashir’s presidential plane until an application seeking his arrest was heard and determined.

The court session began Monday only to realise that Bashir’s plane had been relocated to Waterkloof Airbase where he boarded on Monday afternoon before departing for Sudan.

The South African ruling party, African National Congress yesterday blasted the International Criminal Court (ICC) and as well called upon the government not to respect the Sunday court ruling.

In a statement issued on Sunday night, ANC which is also party that led South Africa to independence after the end of Apartheid regime in 1994, said the ICC is doing nothing but practicing open selective indictment targeting only African leaders.

The party said the Pretoria had gazetted Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg where the African Union Summit is taking place “for Immunity for all participants as part of the international norms for countries hosting such gathering of the AU or even the United Nations.”

President al-Bashir was in South Africa to attend the African Union (AU) Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg.

ANC said its National Executive Committee (NEC) holds a view that the International Criminal Court (ICC) “is no longer useful for the purposes for which it was intended – being a court of last resort for the prosecution of crimes against humanity.”

It added: “The fact that compliance with the prescripts of the International Criminal Court is voluntary and countries can choose whether to be a signatory or not, means that gross human violations committed by non-signatory countries go unpunished. Countries, mainly in Africa and Eastern Europe, who due to their unwavering commitment to upholding human rights and universal justice, have elected to be signatories to the ICC continue to unjustifiably bear the brunt of the decisions of the ICC with Sudan being the latest example.”

The development must have left a bitter taste in Bashir’s mouth.

In July 2008, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, accused al-Bashir of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Darfur.

The court issued an arrest warrant for al-Bashir on 4 March 2009 on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him for genocide.

However, on 12 July 2010, the Court issued a second warrant containing three separate counts.

The new warrant, as with the first, were delivered to the Sudanese government, which did not recognize it nor the ICC.

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