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DRC: Attacks and intimidation against HRD Dismas Kitenge

49 received information on the intrusion into the home and the attacks and acts of intimidation against Mr Dismas Kitenge, president of the Lotus Group, a non-governmental organization member of FIDH and the SOS-Torture Network of the OMCT based in Kisangani, in the DRC. The Lotus Group denounces human rights violations, alerts public opinion and investigates the practices of the authorities to force them to respect the rules of law. The Lotus Group also supports victims of discrimination and oppression because of their membership in a social, national or religious group, or their political opinion. Finally, the organization teaches and promotes human rights and democratic principles to advance them in the DRC.

On the night of January 16 to 17, 2024, between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., unidentified individuals broke into the home of Dismas Kitenge in Kisangani, where he was with his family. The individuals took a television and other valuable items from different rooms of the house before fleeing in an unidentified vehicle.

Again, on the night of January 18 to 19, 2024, unidentified individuals attacked Dismas Kitenge’s home using stone throwing.

On the night of January 21 to 22, 2024, between midnight and 2 a.m., an unidentified car was seen around the home of Dismas Kitenge, with individuals on board scrutinizing the house and its surroundings.

These last two acts of intimidation were countered thanks to the mobilization of family members of Dismas Kitenge who came to reinforce the security of the defender’s home, notably through night vigils.

On January 22, 2024, Dismas Kitenge filed a complaint against unknown persons for these facts with the Public Prosecutor at the Kisangani High Court.

This intrusion and these acts of intimidation follow the participation of Dismas Kitenge in the radio program “Dialogue entre congolais” broadcast on Radio Okapi on January 16, 2024, devoted to the analysis of the parliamentary majority acquired by the Union sacred to the Congolese National Assembly following the legislative elections of December 20, 2023. Before speaking in this program, Dismas Kitenge had already analyzed and criticized the progress of these elections through writings on social networks dated December 1 and January 2, 2024.

This is not the first time that Dismas Kitenge has been the subject of threats and acts of intimidation. In September 2020, Mr. Kitenge and his family were victims of death threats and insults via anonymous calls due to Mr. Kitenge’s positions against the authorities and public figures of the DRC. Following these threats, Mr Kitenge filed a complaint against an unknown person with the Public Prosecutor at the Kisangani High Court, requesting the identification and prosecution of the author of the threats as well as measures of protection for him and his family. In October 2020, Mr Kitenge and his family benefited from temporary relocation measures. In January 2022, Dismas Kitenge was once again the subject of various malicious acts, including anonymous threats, insults and intimidation, following posts on social media. In March 2023, following an interview that Mr Kitenge gave to the media RFI and about the appointment of the new Congolese government, unidentified armed individuals, hooded and in military uniform, attacked his home in Kisangani.

These recent repeated attacks have had harmful consequences on the health of Dismas Kitenge, causing in particular a disturbance in his blood pressure, depression and anxiety disorders which require serious and effective medical monitoring. In addition, his minor children, who have also frequently suffered such acts in the past, are directly affected by these attacks which have severely traumatized them.

These acts occur in an electoral and post-electoral context marked by an increase in attacks and attacks by the Congolese authorities on fundamental rights and freedoms, and in particular the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and freedom of the press.