During a press conference in Kinshasa on November 19, 2014, Congo’s interior minister, Richard Muyej Mangez, presented his response to the allegations of human rights abuses committed during Operation Likofi as documented in Human Rights Watch’s report “Operation Likofi: Police Killings and Enforced Disappearances in Kinshasa,” which was released on November 18.
During the press conference, Muyej presented two individuals who he claimed were the same people as those in two photographs published in the report, one of whom was identified as having been killed during Operation Likofi and the second as being forcibly disappeared. Muyej also claimed a third individual whose photograph was published in the report and was listed as having been forcibly disappeared had already been before a court, tried and released. This individual was not present during the press conference. Muyej provided names for each of these three individuals to the assembled media.
Human Rights Watch has checked the names presented by Muyej with the names of the individuals that we have on file, but which were not published in the report for the protection of the victims’ family members. The information does not match. The names provided to Human Rights Watch by the victims’ family members do not bear any similarity to the names presented by Muyej. As such, we do not believe the individuals presented by Muyej are those whose cases we have documented.
We would be interested in following up further with the government about the cases of these individuals and hope the government will permit us to interview them.
Human Rights Watch welcomes Muyej’s commitment to continue the government’s investigation into allegations of killings and enforced disappearances by the police during Operation Likofi and to present the results of the government’s investigation by the end of the year. We again urge that the commission conducting these investigations be strengthened with participation from civil society and international observers to ensure its findings are credible and independent.
We seek credible and impartial investigations into Operation Likofi so that all those responsible for criminal offenses can be fairly tried before courts that meet international fair trial standards. Given the gravity of the alleged abuses documented in our report, we believe that the primary commander of Operation Likofi, Gen. Célestin Kanyama, should be suspended pending the results of a credible judicial investigation.
Human Rights Watch supports the government’s commitment to address the crimes committed by kuluna, or gang members, in Kinshasa. Kuluna have committed serious crimes and have represented a significant threat to Kinshasa’s residents. Those responsible for these crimes should be arrested and appropriately prosecuted. However, fighting crime by committing additional crimes does not further the rule of law. It only reinforces a climate of fear. Kinshasa’s residents are best served by a police force that operates lawfully and professionally and we support any and all efforts to help bring that about.