DRC: 51 SENTENCED TO DEATH IN MURDER OF UN EXPERTS BY A MILITARY COURT
January 31, 2022:
A military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo sentenced 51 people to death on 29 January 2022, several in absentia, as well as a 10-year prison term and two acquittals in a mass trial over the 2017 killing of two UN experts in Kasai, central DRC. (Sources: Africanews, 30/01/2022; The Guardian, 29/01/2022)
US citizen Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, a Swedish-Chilean, disappeared as they probed violence in the Kasai region.
Unrest in the Kasai region had broken out in 2016, triggered by the killing of a local traditional chief, Kamuina Nsapu, by the security forces.
However, a fortnight after the pair went missing, the UN experts were found dead in a village in March 2017.
Catalán had been beheaded.
Congolese officials have blamed the killings on the Kamuina Nsapu militia.
Prosecutors at the military court in Kananga had demanded the death penalty against 51 of the 54 accused, 22 of whom are fugitives and are being tried in absentia. The charge sheet ranged from “terrorism” and “murder” to “participation in an insurrectional movement” and “the act of a war crime through mutilation”.
The verdict was read by the President of the military court, Jean Paulin Ntshaykolo.
However, the verdict leaves many questions unanswered. A report handed to the UN Security Council described the killings as a "premeditated setup" in which members of state security may have been involved.
The verdict is liable to appeal at the high military court in Kinshasa, the DRC’s capital.