The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and three leading Congolese human rights organisations have today written to international conservation organisations and government aid agencies calling for an investigation into a new case of extrajudicial killing of a man by ‘eco-guards’ in Republic of Congo.
The 32-year old man, called Freddy Ndadé, was arrested near the border between Central African Republic (CAR) and Republic of Congo with two other men, one of whom a minor, for alleged poaching. Freddy and the minor were severely beaten by the eco-guards, before being forced to carry heavy loads and walk through the forest for days without food. “These people treated us like animals”, the man told doctors at the Pioneer Hospital in Impfondo shortly before he died, on November 10th.
Sources from the hospital confirmed that the symptoms which the patient presented with indicated “a case of torture.” However, to confirm this they would have needed an X-ray, which the detention centre refused to pay for.
“The assault and battery and other inhuman, cruel and degrading treatments that the eco-guards inflicted on these three men constitute a clear violation of the ‘Convention against Torture’, which the Republic of Congo has ratified, as well as of the Congolese Constitution”, said Tresor Nzila, Executive Director of the Observatoire Congolais pour les Droits de l’Homme (OCDH).
According to sources, two of the five eco-guards responsible for these abuses work for Nouabale-Ndoki National Park, a protected area managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which receives funding from USAID, among other international donors. The three other eco-guards work for the anti-poaching unit of the Mokabi-Dzanga logging concession, which is operated by French company Rougier.
RFUK and its Congolese partners have written to the conservation organisations associated with these eco-guards, as well as Rougier and Congolese government agencies, urging them to investigate the case and take action to sanction the eco-guards responsible for these violations.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director at the Rainforest Foundation UK, said that this horrific incident proves we need a complete rethink of the increasingly militarised model of conservation in Africa’s rainforests.
"Freddy's tragic case should be a wake up call to park managers and funders, in Republic of Congo and across the region. Actors involved in funding protected areas need to place the project managers under a legal obligation to respect national and international laws and to cause no harm to local and indigenous communities," Mr Counsell concluded.
*The case was documented by a team of researchers from RFUK and Congolese organisations the Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l’Homme (OCDH), the Forum pour la Gouvernance et les Droits de l’Homme (FGDH) and Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ). A full account of the incident is available here.