Pascal Kabungulu, one of DRC’s most prominent human rights defenders, was murdered in 2005 at his home. As the Executive Secretary of the human rights NGO Héritiers de la Justice, he had repeatedly reported the corruption and violence committed in Eastern DRC. Over a period of several years, Mr Kabungulu had received threats from many high-ranking people he had accused. In particular, Mr Kabungulu had denounced the involvement of a Lieutenant Colonel of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) in corruption cases in the gold mines of Mwenga Territory.
The day after Mr Kabungulu’s murder, his family began to receive threats and was subjected to intimidation. His wife was forced to flee the country with her six children, first to Uganda and then to Canada, where they were granted asylum.
For 10 years, his family has never stopped trying to obtain justice, albeit in vain. A commission of investigation set up after his murder led to the opening of a trial and to the identification of the perpetrators, but the case got “lost” in the interstices of the courts and, since 2009, it has been impossible to find any trace of it.
Procedure before the Human Rights Committee
TRIAL International and the Canadian Centre for International Justice filed a complaint on behalf of Pascal Kabungulu’s family before the Human Rights Committee (HRC). They jointly demanded that the violations against the victim and his family be acknowledged, that the perpetrators be punished and that reparation be afforded to the victims.
On 12 January 2021, the HRC recognized that DRC had violated Kabungulu’s right to life and deprived his family of any access to an effective remedy by refusing to investigate the facts. It called on the DRC to pursue the investigation and criminal proceedings into Pascal Kubunglu’s murder in a prompt, effective and transparent manner and to provide his family with adequate compensation.
Mr Kabungulu’s murder is a highly symbolic case because it represents the very essence of violence committed against human rights defenders. Winning this case represents a further step towards better protection for human rights defenders within a deleterious national context.