1. Communication 25/89 is filed by the Free Legal Assistance Group, the
Austrian Committee Against Torture, and the Centre Haitien des Droits et
Libertés, all members of the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT). The
submission of the Free Legal Assistance Group was dated 17 march 1989, that
of the Austrian Committee Against Torture dated 29 March 1989, that of the
Centre Haitien dated 20 April 1989. The Communication alleges the torture of
15 persons by a Military Unit, on or about 19 January 1989, at Kinsuka near
the Zaire River. On 19 April 1989 when several people protested their
treatment, they were detained and held indefinitely.
2. Communication 47/90, dated 16 October 1990, is filed by the Lawyers’
Committee for Human Rights in New York. It alleges arbitrary arrests,
arbitrary detentions, torture, extra-judicial executions, unfair trials,
severe restrictions placed on the right to association and peaceful
assembly, and suppression of the freedom of the Press.
3. Communication 56/91 is submitted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Zaire and
dated 27 March 1991. It alleges the persecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,
including arbitrary arrests, appropriation of church property, and exclusion
from access to education.
4. Communication 100/93 is submitted by the Union Interafricaine des Droits
de l’Homme and dated 20 March 1993. It makes allegations of torture,
executions, arrests, detention, unfair trials, restrictions on freedom of
association and freedom of the press. It also alleges that public finances
were mismanaged; that the failure of the Government to provide basic
services was degrading; that there was a shortage of medicines; that the
universities and secondary schools had been closed for two years; that
freedom of movement was violated; and that ethnic hatred was incited by the
5. The African Commission, when it determined that the communications, taken
together, evidenced a grave and massive violation of human rights in Zaire,
brought the matter to the attention of the Assembly of the Heads of State of
the Organization of African Unity, in December 1995.
6. The Commission also requested that a mission consisting of two members of
the Commission be received in that country, with the objective of
discovering the extent and cause of human rights violations and endeavouring
to help the government to ensure full respect for the African Charter. The
government of Zaire has never responded to these requests for a mission.
PROCEDURE BEFORE THE COMMISSION
7. The Commission in June 1989 received communication 25/89. The Commission
was seized of the communication at its 11th Session in October 1989 and the
State of Zaire was notified on 14 March 1990.
8. Between 1990 and 1993, numerous reminders were sent by the Secretariat to
the Government of Zaire, but no response was received.
9. The Secretariat also sent the complainants regular updates on the status
of the communications.
10. On 23 September 1993, the Ministry of Justice of Zaire wrote that no
copy of the communication had ever been received.
11. A copy was sent on 3 March 1994 by registered post to the Embassy of
Zaire in Dakar but no response was forthcoming.
12. At the 16th Session, held in April 1994, the Commission decided to send
a mission to Zaire in order to create a dialogue.
13. At the 17th Session, held in March 1995, the Communications against
Zaire were declared admissible.
14. The Government of Zaire was notified of this decision on 26 April 1995.
15. At the 18th Session, held in October 1995, the Commission decided to
apply Article 58 (1) of the Charter and to draw the attention of the Heads
of State and Government to the serious and massive violations of human
rights in Zaire.
16. On 12 January 1996, a note verbale was sent to the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs of Zaire informing the Ministry of the proposed mission to Zaire to
be undertaken by Commissioner Nguema and Ben Salem.
17. Communication No. 47/90 was received by the Commission in October 1990.
18. On 20 October 1990, at its 8th Ordinary Session in Banjul, the African
Commission was seized of the communication and decided to notify the State
of Zaire of the complaint and invite its written comments on the
19. On 6 November 1990, the Secretariat of the Commission informed the
Ministry of Zaire of this decision by registered post. No response was
20. At its 11th Ordinary Session, the Commission decided to send a reminder
to Zaire. The Secretariat sent this reminder on 30 March 1992. No response
21. At its 12th Ordinary Session, held in Banjul in October 1992, the
Commission declared the communication admissible and decided that it would
be examined on the merits.
22. The notice of this decision was sent on 16 November 1992. No response
23. In 1993 and 1994, the Secretariat sent several reminders to the
government of Zaire. No response was received.
24. From August 1994 to the present, the correspondence in respect of this
communication is identical with that in the communication 25/89, above.
25. Communication No. 56/91 was received by the Commission in summer 1991.
26. The Commission was seized of the communication at its 10th Session in
October 1991 and a notification was sent to the state on 14 November 1991.
No response was forthcoming.
27. Two reminders were sent by the Secretariat to the Government of Zaire in
28. In a letter dated 14 September 1993, the Ministry of Justice of Zaire
claimed that a copy of the communication had never been received.
29. A copy of the communication was sent 3 March 1994 by registered post to
the Embassy in Dakar, but no response was received.
30. From August 1994, the correspondence in respect of this communication is
identical with that in communication 25/89, given above.
31. Communication No. 100/93 was received by the Commission in April 1993.
32. The Commission was seized of the communication at its 13th Session in
April 1993 and it was brought to the attention of the State on 12 April
1993. No response was forthcoming.
33. In 1993 and 1994, reminders were sent to the Government of Zaire but no
response was forthcoming.
34. As from August 1994, the correspondence in respect of this communication
is identical with that in communication 25/89, given above.
35. After deliberations, as envisioned by Article 58 of the African Charter,
the Commission considered that communications 25/89, 47/90, 56/91 and 100/93
against Zaire reveal the existence of serious and massive violations of
36. Article 56 of the African Charter requires that complainants exhaust
local remedies before the Commission can take up a case, unless these
remedies are as a practical matter unavailable or unduly prolonged. The
requirement of exhaustion of local remedies is founded on the principle that
a government should have notice of a human rights violation in order to have
the opportunity to remedy such violations before being called before an
international body. In this case, the government has had ample notice of the
37. The Commission has never held the requirement of local remedies to apply
literally in case where it is impractical or undesirable for the complainant
to seize the domestic courts in the case of each violation. This is the
situation here, given the vast and varied scope of the violations alleged
and the general situation prevailing in Zaire.
38. For the above reasons, the Commission declared the communications
1. The Merits
39. The main goal of the communications procedure before the Commission is
to initiate a positive dialogue, resulting in an amicable resolution between
the complainant and the State concerned, which remedies the prejudice
complained of. A pre-requisite for amicably remedying violations of the
Charter is the good faith of the parties concerned, including their
willingness to participate in a dialogue.
40. In the present case, there has been no substantive response from the
Government of Zaire, despite the numerous notifications of the
communications sent by the African Commission. The African Commission, in
several previous decisions, has set out the principle that where allegations
of human rights abuse go uncontested by the government concerned, even after
repeated notifications, the Commission must decide on the facts provided by
the complainant and treat those facts as given.[FN1] This principle conforms
with the practice of other international human rights adjudicatory bodies
and the Commission’s duty to protect human rights. Since the Government of
Zaire does not wish to participate in a dialogue, the Commission must,
regrettably, continue its consideration of the case on the basis of facts
and opinions submitted by the complainants alone.
[FN1] See, e.g. the Commission's decisions in communications 59/91, 60/91,
87/93 and 101/93.
41. Article 5 of the African Charter prohibits torture and inhuman or
degrading treatment. The torture of 15 persons by a military unity at
Kinsuka, near the Zaire River, as alleged in communication 25/89,
constitutes a violation of this article.
42. Article 6 of the African Charter guarantees the right to liberty and
security of person. The indefinite detention of those who protested against
torture, as described in communication 25/89, violates Article 6.
43. Article 4 of the African Charter protects the rights to life.
Communication 47/90, in addition to alleged arbitrary arrests, arbitrary
detention and torture, alleges extrajudicial executions which are a
violation of Article 4.
44. Article 7 of the African Charter specifies the right to have one’s cause
heard. The unfair trials described in communication 47/90 constitute a
violation of this right.
45. Article 8 of the African Charter protects freedom of conscience. The
harassment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, as described in communication 56/91,
constitutes a violation of this article, since the government has presented
no evidence that the practice of their religion in any way threatens law and
order. The arbitrary arrests of believers of this religion likewise
constitutes a contravention of Article 6, above.
46. The torture, executions, arrests, detention, unfair trials, restrictions
on freedom of association and freedom of the press described in
communication 100/93 violate the above Articles.
47. Article 16 of the African Charter states that every individual shall
have the right to enjoy the best attainable state of physical and mental
health, and that States Parties should take the necessary measures to
protect the health of their people. The failure of the Government to provide
basic services such as safe drinking water and electricity and the shortage
of medicine as alleged in communication 100/93 constitutes a violation of
48. Article 17 of the Charter guarantees the right to education. The
closures of universities and secondary schools as described in communication
100/93 constitutes a violation of Article 17.
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COMMISSION holds that the facts constitute serious
and massive violations of the African Charter, namely of Articles
4,5,6,7,8,16 and 17.
Taken at the 18th Ordinary Session, Praia, Cape Verde, October 1995.