Date: Fri, 28 Nov 97 12:31:52 CST
From: Ray Mitchell <RMITCHEL%AI-UK@amnesty.org.uk>
Subject: AI: Democratic Republic of Congo bulletin
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION BULLETIN
Torture/Medical concern/Fear of torture; Prisoners of conscience
Amnesty International Urgent Action Bulletin. AI Index: AFR 62/38/97, 27 November 1997
Leading members of the Forces du Futur:
Eleven leaders of a political movement known as the Forces du futur, Forces of the Future, were arrested on 25 November 1997 while holding a meeting in the capital, Kinshasa. All 11 have been tortured or ill-treated and are being denied access to medical care for their injuries. They are currently being held by the Police d'Intervention Rapide (PRI), Rapid Intervention Police, at the Gendarmerie headquarters known as the Circo (Circonscription militaire) in Kinshasa. They are feared to be at risk of further torture and ill-treatment.
On 24 November the Forces du futur began a four-day meeting in a hotel in Kinshasa. The following day, the PRI surrounded the hotel and prevented participants from entering the building. At 3pm on the same day, the organisers held a press conference at the house of the president of Forces du Futur, Professor Zahidi Arthur Ngoma, to protest against the disruption of their meeting. After the press conference, the PRI surrounded the neighbourhood, broke into Professor Ngoma's house and arrested 12 people, among them Professor Ngoma himself. The police also arrested about 10 journalists who had just left Professor Ngoma's house, as well as two bystanders.
The PRI took those arrested to the Circo detention centre where they were all beaten; some of them were beaten on their stomach and genitals, a form of torture frequently used by the current security forces. The journalists and three other detainees were released on the evening of 25 November, but 11 members of the executive committee of Forces du futur, named above, remain in custody. They have all sustained injuries from the beatings, and are being denied access to a doctor. Ingele Ifot and Elia Ona Bobo are reportedly discharging blood in their urine, and one of the other detainees has a serious eye injury.
No official charges are known to have brought against those arrested. Members of the PRI told the detainees that they were arrested because of their political activities.
Hundreds of people are reported to have been arrested in various parts of the DRC since the AFDL took power on 17 May 1997. The vast majority of these arrests are reported to be arbitrary, carried out without arrest warrants, by soldiers who do not have the legal power to make arrests under Congolese law. Detainees are often held incommunicado, sometimes in unofficial detention centres such as private residences. Reports of ill-treatment and torture are common.
Those arrested have included members of political opposition groups critical of the AFDL, journalists, human rights activists as well as many dignitaries, including ministers of the former government. The Alliance des forces democratiques pour la liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL) have officially banned political party activity outside of the AFDL and suspended the Zairian constitution which guaranteed freedom of association and the right to hold peaceful demonstrations.