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Congo: Activist Held in Kinshasa

The Congolese government should immediately stop arbitrarily arresting human rights activists, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch sent a letter to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Joseph Kabila, calling for the release of N'sii Luanda, president of the Committee of Human Rights Monitors. He was arrested on 5 June 2001 and is being held without charge at the central prison in Kinshasa.

"N'sii Luanda seems to be detained purely because of his human rights activities," said Suliman Baldo, senior researcher in Human Rights Watch's Africa division. "If there are no charges against him, he should be released immediately. Otherwise, he should be charged and tried in full accordance with fair trial standards."

In its letter, Human Rights Watch also criticized the recent detention of Robert Ilunga Numbi, the head of the group "Friends of Nelson Mandela for Human Rights." He was arrested on 15 June 2001 in Kinshasa and released on 20 June.

The arrests occurred at a moment when the DRC is preparing for a national conference on human rights, scheduled to start 24 June 2001.

"This crackdown on members of the human rights community is in direct contradiction to the pledge President Kabila made to uphold basic rights and the rule of the law," Mr. Baldo said. "The human rights movement in the DRC is a vital force and should play a key role in Congo's peace process."

A copy of the letter to President Joseph Kabila is available here.

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