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DRC urged to respect international standards of due process in activist's murder case

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to respect international standards of due process [press release] during the appeal in the case of Floribert Chebeya, a Congolese human rights defender who was murdered in 2010. She noted that the original trial included numerous due process issues including the non-questioning of key witnesses. Pillay advised the government to appoint high-ranking judges to preside over the trial in order to prevent any detrimental effects arising out of the involvement of high-level officials in the crimes. Another area of concern was the securing of new evidence which should be "preserved with great care." Pillay also urged the government to adopt draft laws that will provide protection to human rights defenders and offered assistance by the UN Human Rights Office. She stressed the importance of the current case in which a hearing is scheduled for Tuesday because Chebeya was a pioneer in human rights movement in the DRC.

Chebeya was found dead in his own car in June 2010 outside of Kinshasa. In June of last year, a military court sentenced [JURIST report] four policemen to death for killing Chebeya. A total of eight men, all DRC policemen, were accused of being involved in the murder and were subsequently arrested. The trial of five of the eight men started [JURIST report] in November 2010 while three remain at large. They faced charges of abduction, assassination, terrorism and conspiracy. One of the eight was sentenced to life in prison, three were acquitted and the three remaining at large were sentenced to death. The former Chief of Police Intelligence Colonel Daniel Mukalay was also sentenced to death for planning the assassination. Within less than a week after the killing of the human rights defender, national police chief John Numbi was suspended [JURIST report] following the investigation into the murder. The investigation was initiated after senior UN officials urged [JURIST report] the country to do so.

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