(New York) - The head of a Congolese non-governmental organization from Uvira has been detained and severely beaten by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), Human Rights Watch said today.
Security agents in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, arrested Jules Nteba Mbakumba of the Association Elimu, an NGO conducting adult education, on October 31 and handed him over to security agents in Uvira. Human Rights Watch researchers in the region witnessed Mr. Nteba, bound and guarded, entering the Direction Generale de Migration (DGM) security agency in Uvira. Security personnel in the DGM assured Human Rights Watch representatives of Mr. Nteba’s well-being while refusing to disclose the place where he would be held.
According to local sources, Mr. Nteba has been beaten in detention. “We are concerned about the safety of Jules Nteba. Any person arrested on a criminal charge must be brought without delay before a judicial authority and tried within a reasonable time or released,” said Alison Des Forges, senior adviser at the Africa division of Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch has learned that since his arrest, Mr. Nteba has been held in several different venues, including the Rwandan military camp in Kavimvira, near Uvira, and reportedly at the private home of the Director of the DGM. On November 8 he was transferred to Brigade Speciale de Recherche (BSR) in Bukavu, and on November 9, Human Rights Watch learned he was transferred to Goma and detained in a dungeon called “Vicious Dog.”
In early August, RCD authorities charged the Association Elimu with producing leaflets for the Mai Mai rebels on their computer. The organization's office was searched and its computers and software seized. Following these accusations, Mr. Nteba received regular threats, and other members of Elimu were detained in Uvira. On October 11, he was arrested and detained in Bujumbura in connection with these accusations, but freed several days later following an interrogation by the public prosecutor in Burundi.
Uvira and Bukavu are located in the territory held by the RCD-Goma, and occupied by Burundian and Rwandan armies supporting the RCD. The RCD and its Burundian and Rwandan allies are fighting against the government of President Kabila. They are also fighting against several armed opposition groups, including Congolese Mai Mai rebels, and their Burundian allies the National Liberation Forces (Forces Nationales pour la Libération, FNL) and the Forces for the Defense of Democracy (Forces pour la Défense de la Démocratie, FDD).