UN calls for DR Congo probe into activist's death

Floribert Chebeya, head of Voice of the Voiceless Mr Chebeya received regular threats in a career spanning more than 20 years

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UN chief Ban Ki-Moon has called for an independent investigation in the Democratic Republic of Congo into the death of a human rights activist.

Floribert Chebeya's body was found in his car after he was called to a meeting with the national police chief, which did not take place, on Tuesday.

A senior UN investigator said the circumstances of the death "strongly suggested official responsibility".

The government has not responded to the comment, but has ordered an inquiry.

The UN has about 20,000 peacekeepers in DR Congo, helping the nation recover from years of civil war and insecurity.

Mr Chebeya, 47, headed Voice of the Voiceless and activists say he received regular threats over the last 20 years.

Analysis

Floribert Chebeya was a thorn in the side of governments in DR Congo for nearly three decades. He founded Voice of the Voiceless in 1983 when Mobutu Sese Seko was ruling then-Zaire with an iron fist.

When Laurent Kabila came to power in 1997 and later his son Joseph, Mr Chebeya continued to denounce illegal arrests, arbitrary detentions and corruption.

DR Congo is set to celebrate 50 years of independence from Belgium this month. But Mr Chebeya opposed the invitation sent to Belgium's king and said it was not a time for parades, but an opportunity to discuss the social ills still facing the country.

I met him a few times last year after he was briefly arrested, beaten up and jailed by special services. He told me then that he was under surveillance and was receiving regular threats.

UN investigator Philip Alston voiced his concern about the circumstances of his death in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Earlier on Thursday, two members of Mr Chebeya's family, three UN staff and two members of Voice of the Voiceless had been granted access to his body at the main morgue in the capital, Kinshasa.

They could see only his face as the rest of his body was covered by a bed sheet that they were not allowed to remove, BBC reporter Thomas Fessy said.

Dolly Ibefo, from Voice of the Voiceless, told the BBC that there were no obvious wounds, but there was blood in his mouth, his nose and his ears.

He called for an independent autopsy.

Our reporter said that Mr Chebeya had sent a text message to his wife saying that he was at the police headquarters for the meeting, but was not heard from again.

Both the police and Voice of the Voiceless have confirmed that the meeting with head of national police, John Numbi, did not take place.

Mr Ibefo explained that Mr Chebeya had sent a letter to Mr Numbi earlier this year asking him to improve detention conditions in prisons.

He received a letter of acknowledgment last week and then a call on Tuesday asking him to attend a meeting at 1730 local time.

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