DRC: charged and jailed journalist’s health at risk

English PEN protests the months-long pre-trial detention of L’interprète editor Nsimba Embete Ponte and his assistant Davin Ntondo Nzovuangu. The two men were finally officially charged on 6 June, after being held incommunicado for 90 and 68 days respectively. English PEN is concerned that the journalists continue to be detained and that their trial is being delayed. It is believed that they are being detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the national constitution and international human rights law. English PEN is also concerned by reports that Ponte is in poor health. We calls on the Congolese authorities to ensure Ponte and Ntondo receive access to bail provision and a prompt and fair trial, and to proper medical treatment whilst still in detention.

 

On 6 June 2008, Ponte and Ntondo were reportedly transferred from the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in Kinshasa, where they had been held since March, to the court of Matete, also in Kinshasa. Both men were charged with “publishing false news, threatening state security and insulting the president” on the basis of a 30 November 2006 article critical of President Kabila’s leadership and a series of February 2008 articles on the President’s health. The journalists had been held incommunicado for 90 and 68 days respectively, during which time they were denied visits by lawyers, doctors or their families.

 

On 7 June Ponte and Ntondo were transferred to a prison in Kinshasa (Centre pénitentiaire et de rééducation de Kinshasa – CPRK, formerly known as Makala). A hearing scheduled for 13 June reportedly did not take place as the judge failed to turn up.

 

Ponte (57) is reportedly in poor health. He says he has suffered from headaches and fainting while in detention and appeared weak during a 7 June visit by local free press organisation Journalist en Danger (JED). On 9 June, Ponte was reportedly diagnosed with symptoms of meningitis and stomach ulcers and referred to specialized medical care. As of 25 June he was said to be held in a cell with some 20 other inmates.

 

At the end of June a state prosecutor reportedly declared the journalists’ pre-trial detention to be illegal. Under the DRC Constitution, detainees can only be kept in a holding cell for 48 hours. However, this guarantee is systematically violated, according to a Human Rights Assessment report by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in DRC.

 

Background
Ponte was arrested by plain clothes policemen on 7 March and detained incommunicado at an ANR building near the prime minister’s office in Kinshasa. He had reportedly been receiving threats since publishing a series of articles on President Kabila’s health (mentioned above) in February. Ntondo was arrested by police at his home on 29 March. Both men were denied access to legal or medical assistance or family visits during their detention by the ANR.

 

Links
Please click here to read an earlier appeal for Nsimba Embete Ponte.

 

Please send appeals

•         Protesting the months-long pre-trial detention of Ponte and Ntondo, who were held incommunicado for 90 et 68 days respectively, and continue to be detained in prison, in apparent violation of their right to their right to express their opinion freely in print (guaranteed by Articles 22-24 of the DRC Constitution, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the DRC is party);

 

•         Pointing out that months-long detention without charge or trial is inadmissible under international legislation, which guarantees the right not to be held in arbitrary detention and the right to be brought to trial within a reasonable period (Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights);

•         Calling for Ponte and Ntondo to be freed pending trial, or, if as suggested, they are held in denial of their rights, to be released without conditions;

 

•         Expressing concern that Ponte has been diagnosed in prison with symptoms of medical conditions that require specialized medical care;

 

•         Urging the authorities to ensure that while they remain in prison both journalists, particularly Ponte, are given full access to medical attention.

 

Addresses

Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Mutombo Bakafwa Nsenda, Minister of Justice and Human Rights
Salutation: Dear Minister

 

Prison Director
M. Kitungwa Killy Dido, Director, Centre Pénitentiaire et de Rééducation de Kinshasa (CPRK)
Salutation: Dear Sir

 

Via:

The Democratic Republic of the Congo Permanent Mission to the United Nations
886 United Nations Plaza – Suite 511, New York, NY 10017, USA.
Fax: 212 319 8232

 

It may be more effective to send the above appeals through the DRC embassy in London:

 

The Ambassador
Embassy for the Democratic Republic of Congo
281 Gray’s Inn Road
London
WC1X 8QF
Salutation: Dear Ambassador

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/drcchargedandjailedjournalistshealthatrisk/

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