June 3, 2010 / 8:49 AM / in 8 years

Congo's leading human rights defender found dead

By Katrina Manson

KINSHASA, June 2 (Reuters) - A leading human rights activist in Democratic Republic of Congo was found dead on the outskirts of the capital, Amnesty International and a Kinshasa police official said on Wednesday.

Floribert Chebeya, head of the national network of human rights NGOs and of local NGO Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), died of unknown causes after being summoned to meet the head of the national police force in Kinshasa on Tuesday evening, Amnesty said in a statement.

"We are stunned and appalled by the suspicious death of such a prominent and respected human rights defender," said Veronique Aubert, deputy direct of Amnesty’s Africa programme.

Aubert said Chebeya, who has campaigned to uphold the rights of the constitution and democracy in the country’s parliament, had been harrassed by authorities in the past.

Kinshasa’s police chief, General Jean De Dieu Oleko, told Reuters on Wednesday night that Chebeya was found dead in his car and added the police had opened an inquiry.

A note from national human rights network RENADHOC sent on Wednesday said Chebeya had been summoned to see the Inspector General of Police, General John Numbi on Tuesday evening and had not been seen alive since.

"We haven’t seen his body yet but we have the note from the morgue and we’ve seen his car. There is no blood or bullet holes," Dolly Ibefo, Chebeya’s deputy at VSV, told Reuters by telephone.

Amnesty, which called for an investigation into his death, says oppression of human rights activisits in Congo has increased in the past year, including threats and illegal arrests. (Editing by Dominic Evans)





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