The trial of six Congolese soldiers, including two senior officers, arrested after the repression of a demonstration that left around fifty dead on August 30, began Tuesday in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The hearing began at the beginning of the afternoon before the North Kivu military court, sitting in a packed room at the Katindo military camp in Goma, the provincial capital, where the events took place, noted an AFP journalist.
Suspended at the end of the day, it must resume Wednesday morning.
The accused are two officers of the Republican Guard, Colonel Mike Mikombe and Lieutenant-Colonel Donatien Bawili, whose arrest was announced Monday by the government, as well as four 2nd class soldiers. All are in detention and appeared in their military uniforms.
Asked whether he recognized the facts with which he is accused, Colonel Mikombe replied "no, I do not recognize them". The other defendants have not yet been given the floor.
Tried for "flagrance" (immediate appearance), they are being prosecuted in particular for "crimes against humanity", declared the senior auditor of North Kivu, Colonel Michel Kachil, representing the public prosecutor.
He said 56 people were killed and 75 injured last Wednesday in a military operation launched to prevent a planned demonstration by a local sect against the presence of UN and East African forces in the region. , accused of ineffectiveness in the fight against armed groups.
- “On their initiative” -
The operation was carried out in particular in the temple and the radio premises of this sect. An internal army document quickly reported 48 dead and 75 injured, before the government communicated a toll of 43 dead and 56 injured.
Survivors interviewed last Friday claimed that the soldiers had opened fire "without explanation" or "justification" on dozens of unarmed people.
The two officers on trial "dragged four young soldiers" into their "macabre enterprise", launched the senior auditor, ensuring that "their actions were carried out on their own initiative".
“It was not a state action, they acted in isolation,” he said.
A ministerial delegation was sent from Kinshasa to Goma on Saturday to "shed light" on the events of August 30 and "clear responsibilities", in the words of the government.
In addition to the arrest of the two military officials announced on the night of Sunday to Monday in Goma by the Minister of the Interior Peter Kazadi, he announced Monday evening the recall to Kinshasa for "consultations" of the governor of North Kivu, General Constant Ndima, and the suspension of two police officers.
Around sixty victims became civil parties to the trial. Their lawyers announced their intention to request that the Congolese state be held civilly responsible.
From New York, Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the Secretary General of the United Nations, indicated that the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) "strongly encourages a thorough and independent investigation" into this matter and is following the ongoing trial.