Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
The United States is deeply concerned by the apparent assassination of noted Congolese human rights leader Floribert Chebeya Bahizire in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Mr. Chebeya’s lifeless body was found in his car on June 2, 2010. His driver, Fidele Bazana Edadi, is missing.
Mr. Chebeya was last heard from on the evening of June 1, when he indicated that he and Mr. Bazana were en route to a meeting with the Inspector General of the Congolese National Police, who had reportedly summoned him.
Mr. Chebeya, the founder of “Voix des Sans Voix” (Voice of the Voiceless), was a human rights advocate since the regime of Mobutu Sese Seko. He won the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1993. Because of his advocacy work, Mr. Chebeya had been arrested, detained and threatened by security forces numerous times over the past two decades. We are concerned about the killings of other human rights defenders in the DRC in recent years, and note that Congolese human rights groups remain particularly vulnerable to harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and other abuses by security forces.
The United States extends its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Mr Chebeya and calls for an immediate and independent investigation and autopsy, with UN oversight, to determine the cause of his death. We also welcome the June 3 statement by the DRC Government that it intends to conduct a thorough investigation. The United States stands ready to provide U.S. forensic experts to assist the Congolese authorities in their inquiry into the death of Mr. Chebeya and we informed the Congolese Government of this offer earlier today. At the conclusion of these investigations, those deemed responsible must be held accountable.