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UN officials urge probe into killing of DR Congo rights activist

Senior UN officials on Thursday condemned the killing of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) [BBC country profile] and called for an investigation into his murder. Chebeya was found dead in his car on Wednesday, one day after being asked to attend a meeting at the office of the inspector general of the national police. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] praised Chebeya [statement] saying, "[h]is reputation as a champion of human rights earned him the respect and admiration of his compatriots and of the international community. His work will be remembered as a tribute to Congolese perseverance." Ban also called for a "transparent and independent" investigation "with full respect for due process and rule of law." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] noted Chebeya's achievements saying [statement], "[h]e believed in the cause of human rights and was not afraid to pursue it against all odds." Pillay also expressed concern over the "growing trend of intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents as well as victims and witnesses in the DRC." She also called for an investigation into Chebeya's murder.

Human rights have long been a major concern in the DRC. In December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] urged the UN Organization Mission in DR Congo [official website] to stop funding military groups [JURIST report] in the country that are committing human rights abuses. In December 2008, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported [JURIST report] that rape and sexual warfare have been employed by both the DRC military and by rebel forces. In November 2008, MUNOC head Alan Doss [appointment release] condemned [JURIST report] the killing of civilians by militias in the country as war crimes. MONUC has been operating in DRC since 1999. The conflict in the DRC [Global Security backgrounder] has claimed more than four million lives and has been ongoing since 1983. MONUC has overseen elections and continues to provide armed protection for civilians in certain areas, particularly the North and South Kivus provinces.

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