UN experts welcome DR Congo police chief suspension

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UN experts on Wednesday welcomed the suspension of Democratic Republic of Congo's police chief and the arrest of several police officers over the murder of a human rights campaigner.

Police chief John Numbi was suspended on Saturday and several police arrested over the killing of Floribert Chebeya.

"This killing not only deprives the DRC of one of its most vocal and effective human rights defenders, but also sends a message of intimidation and brutality to the entire DRC human rights community," said the UN experts.

The three experts are Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, executions, Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.

"Failure to identify and prosecute the perpetrators would constitute a huge step backwards, and risks undermining many of the government's other efforts," they warned in a joint statement.

It "welcomed the announced suspension" of the police chief and the arrests of the other officers.

Chebaya, 47, president of the rights association La Voix des Sans-Voix (VSV - Voice of the Voiceless) was found dead on June 2, tied up on the back seat of his car.

He disappeared the previous night with his driver, who has still not been found, after spending an evening at police headquarters where he was due to meet then police chief, Numbi. That meeting never took place.

The case sparked an international outcry, with the United States, United Nations, the European Union and France all pushing the DR Congo government to carry out an independent, open and impartial enquiry into Chebeya's death.

© 2010 AFP

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