France quashes case against Congo police chief

23rd November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 22 (AFP) - A French appeal court on Monday put an end to legal action against the chief of police in the Congo Republic, Jean-Francois Ndenguet, who was under investigation for crimes against humanity, lawyers said.

PARIS, Nov 22 (AFP) - A French appeal court on Monday put an end to legal action against the chief of police in the Congo Republic, Jean-Francois Ndenguet, who was under investigation for crimes against humanity, lawyers said.

The appeals court in Paris on procedural grounds quashed the case against Ndenguet, who was being pursued in connection with the disappearance of about 350 Congolese refugees returning from the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Lawyers for several human rights organisations and civil parties concerned about the people who vanished in 1999 announced that they would take the case to France's top court of appeal as soon as they heard the ruling.

"This decision illustrates the unfortunate tendency of the past years where political authorities are again influencing judicial affairs when they touch French geopolitical interests," said William Bourdon, the lawyer for the father of the missing people.

The missing people were among thousands who fled violence in the central African country in the 1990s and sought refuge in its larger eastern neighbour, DRC.

They were said to have been arrested by security forces on their return to the capital Brazzaville in 1999 and have never been seen since, leading a group representing their family members to accuse Congo authorities of murder.

At least three in the refugee group survived and escaped to France.

They brought a lawsuit before the court at Meaux, a town east of Paris, accusing Congolese government officials of torture, kidnapping and crimes against humanity.

French legal authorities then took up the case on the grounds that at least one of the officials allegedly responsible for the disappearance of 353 people lived in France.

The court said the investigation had been opened improperly.

Ndenguet was arrested and on April 2 jailed in Paris, but he was swiftly released after an emergency overnight judicial hearing which found he should benefit from diplomatic immunity. The French public prosecutor then filed to have the case against him dropped.

The Congolese authorities have repeatedly denied that the returning refugees were arrested, but have admitted that there had been "events beyond government control".

They described several groups as having "settled scores" as Congo emerged from a decade of civil war, which pitted private armies backing political leaders against each other.

The spokesman of the Congolese government, Alain Akouala, who was present at the hearing, said he was overjoyed at the decision. He said "everything will come to light before the courts in our country" as an investigation has been opened in Congo.

"The decision is really unfortunate for us," Jacques Mabanza, vice president of the association of parents of victims, told AFP in Brazzaville.

He said they would appeal in France as "we don't believe in the independence of courts in Congo to resist pressure in their rulings."

Mabanza said: "Already officers implicated in the case have begun to deny everything during the investigation by Congolese authorities."

General Norbert Dabira said he was "satisfied" with the decision.

"It is now for Congolese courts to determine justice."

© AFP

Subject: French News

0 Comments To This Article