Paul Mwilambwe

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 20.07.2019 )
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Facts

Paul Mwilambwe was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1973. He became commander of the Congolese National Police (PNC) in 2010. Mwilambwe was responsible for the safety of General John Numbi, former head of the PNC.

On 1 June 2010, Floribert Chebeya, General Director of the NGO Voices of the Voiceless (VSV), a human rights organization, and his colleague and driver, Fidèle Bazana, also a member of the organization, went to the premises of the PNC to meet Numbi. On the following day, Chebeya was found dead in his car while Bazana was missing.

Numbi, with help of Mwilambwe and seven other police officers, allegedly tortured and murdered Chebeya and Bazana in a police station on 1 June 2010. Shortly after these events, Mwilambwe moved to Belgium, where he lived in hiding for many months. He then moved to Senegal.

Legal Procedure

PROCEEDINGS IN THE DRC

 Under pressure from civil society, the Congolese authorities opened an investigation to shed light on the events that occurred in June 2010. The investigation led to the indictment of eight police officers, including Mwilambwe. However, no criminal charges were filed against Numbi, who was merely suspended as he benefitted from immunity due to his role in the police force.

In June 2011, a trial against the eight policemen was initiated before the Military Court of Kinshasa. Mwilambwe, along with two other accused were tried in absentia as they have fled the country.

On 23 June 2011, the court reached its verdict. The court acquitted three policemen. The others, including Mwilambwem were found guilty of murder of Chebeya and enforced disappearance of Bazana, whose body was still missing at that time. Four persons were sentenced to death, including Mwilambwem one person was sentenced to life imprisonment.

In 2015, the High Kinshasa Military Court acquitted four of the accused previously sentenced to death citing lack of evidence. The sentence of the person sentenced to life imprisonment was reduced to 15 years of imprisonment.

PROCEEDINGS IN SENEGAL

On 2 June 2014, the victims filed a complaint in Senegal against Mwilambwe for acts of torture, on the grounds of the universal jurisdiction conferred upon Senegalese judicial bodies by the law of 12 February 2007. According to this law, Senegalese tribunals have universal jurisdiction over any person accused of torture provided that this person is on the Senegalese territory, regardless of the nationality of that person or that of the victim, and irrespective of the place of commission of the crime.

In August 2014, the Senegalese authorities opened an official investigation. Mwilambwe was heard by an examining magistrate concerning the murder of Chebeya and Bazana. Mwilambwe defended himself by claiming that he had been obliged to obey superior orders issued by Numbi.

On 8 January 2015, the Senegalese justice confirmed the indictment of Mwilambwe, and placed the accused under judicial supervision in Dakar. In June 2015, Guylain Bazana, son of Fidèle Bazana, was also heard by the Senegalese authorities.

In April 2017, lawyers representing civil parties in the Senegalese proceedings asked the examining magistrate to add to the file several pieces of evidence gathered in the proceedings in the DRC.

The investigation is still ongoing in Senegal. In 2019, new evidence submitted by civil parties is being examined by the examining magistrate.  

Context

THE FIRST CONGO WAR

After almost 40 years under the dictatorship of Mobutu, a new period of conflicts broke out in 1996 in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly known as Belgian Congo, Congo-Leopoldville or Zaire), as a result of the spill-over of the civil war raging in the neighbouring Rwanda. At the end of the armed conflict involving Rwanda and Uganda Mobutu had to resign, and Laurent-Désiré Kabila become a new president of the DRC.

 

THE SECOND CONGO WAR

Already in 1998 Kabila’s alliance with Rwanda and Uganda had turned sour. Different rebel groups engaged in an armed conflict against governmental forces. Due to the involvement of about 25 armed groups and eight States – Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe supporting DRC’s government, versus Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi supporting the rebels – the war is also known as the Great War of Africa.

On 18 January 2001, Laurent Kabila died due to consequences of an attack perpetrated against him, leaving the country in his son Joseph’s hands. After various ceasefire agreements during the following years, the war formally ended in 2002. The peace agreement led to new elections, won by Joseph Kabila.

 

THE CONFLICTS IN NORTH KIVU, SOUTH KIVU AND IN ITURI

New armed conflicts erupted, however, in the border regions of DRC between governmental forces and rebel groups. Ethnical differences and the high amount of natural resources present in the Kivu and Ituri provinces are among the main causes of the hostilities. Despite the fragile peace agreements signed in 2007 (Ituri) and in 2009 (Kivu), thousands of people continue to die due to famine and devastations left by the conflicts.

 

INTERNATIONAL PROCEEDINGS

In 2005, the International Court of Justice recognized Uganda’s responsibility for violation of DRC’s territorial integrity during the Second Congo War, and for the unlawful exploitation of a substantial amount of DRC’s natural resources.

In 2005, Joseph Kabila referred the DRC’s situation to the International Criminal Court (ICC), asking the Prosecutor to open investigations in crimes committed on the DRC’s territory since the entry into force of the ICC Statute. To date the ICC has indicted five people for the crimes committed in DRC. Among these was also Thomas Lubanga Dyilom the first person ever to be convicted by the ICC.