Call for inquiry into activist's death in Congo

The head of the United Nations mission in Democratic Republic of Congo yesterday called for an investigation into the death of a leading human rights activist found dead in the capital on Wednesday.

Floribert Chebeya, head of the national network of human rights NGOs and of local NGO Voice of the Voiceless (VSV), was found dead in his car in a Kinshasa suburb after being called for an appointment with police the evening before.

"The Special Representative calls for the authorities to initiate a prompt investigation so that full light can be shed on this death," said a statement from the UN mission in Congo, Monuc, attributed to mission head Alan Doss. Chebeya, who campaigned to uphold the rights of the constitution and improve prison conditions, had been harrassed by authorities in the past and was named in a report this year from rights group Amnesty International saying he was at risk. Over the past decade, he had focused on human rights abuses, corruption in the military and links between militias and foreign groups.

Police said Chebeya was found dead in the back of his car in the Mitendi neighbourhood early in the morning in circumstances that suggested a sexual link. "Our agents... found the body of a man with no visible trace of violence and whose trouser flies were undone," said a statement. But human rights campaigners and the UN suggested official involvement.