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Jean-Jacques Wondo Omanyundu. © Private

Today, Jean-Jacques Wondo, a well-known researcher on political and security issues in Africa’s Great Lakes region, will have an initial appearance before a military court in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Wondo is one of at least several dozen people arrested following a failed coup attempt in the country last month.

So far the only evidence known to have been presented against Wondo is a 2016 photo of him and Christian Malanga, the US-based opponent of the Congolese government and self-proclaimed “President of New Zaire,” who allegedly led the coup. Malanga was killed in unclear circumstances hours after he and about 50 armed men temporarily seized the Palais de la Nation (Palace of the Nation) in Kinshasa, which serves as the president’s office. The coup participants allegedly attacked the residences of the prime minister, the defense minister, and another senior politician. Malanga was active on social media and photos of him with senior US politicians have emerged.

Wondo, a dual Congolese and Belgian national, is known across the region and in Europe. Human Rights Watch has consulted with him on political and security issues for years. He was recently asked by Daniel Lusadisu, the then-administrator general of Congo’s national intelligence services (Agence Nationale de RenseignementsANR) to review the agency’s practices and propose reforms. Wondo had travelled to Kinshasa in May to continue his work. Following the attempted coup, he was reportedly arrested and held incommunicado for at least one day before being transferred to a military prison.

Wondo’s family members told Human Rights Watch that it was preposterous to arrest someone based on an eight-year-old photo with an alleged coup-leader.

Since the coup attempt, Human Rights Watch has called on the government to uphold the fundamental rights of those arrested. Wondo and others detained should be credibly charged with a criminal offense or immediately released. An arrest based only on a 2016 photo is just not credible.

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