51 convicted to death for the murders of Swedish and American UN experts in DRC in 2017

A court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo sentenced 51 people to death for the murders of two United Nations experts in the Kasaï province in 2017. Sweden and the U.S. call for more investigations.

A year after the start of the trial, 51 people have been convicted on January 29 for the killing of two United Nations experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalán, in the Kasaï province in 2017.

They are sentenced to the death penalty but a moratorium from 2003 actually converts the death sentence to life in prison. The convicts were mostly from the armed militia of Kamwina Nsapu’s rebellion.

In 2017, Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp were mandated by the United Nations to look into the violence in the Kasaï-central province, in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The region was unstable after the rebellion of Kamwina Nsapu, a tribal chief praising ancestral laws who raised against Kinshasa. He was killed in 2016.

The two UN experts and the four local Congolese, three drivers and a translator, were abducted and brought to the jungle. The bodies of Zaida Catalán, a Sweden-Chile national, and Michael Sharp, a U.S. citizen, were found dead after two weeks. Zaida Catalán was decapitated.

A UN Security Council report considered they were ambushed and didn’t dismiss a potential involvement of State security members.

Colonel Jean de Dieu Mambweni, accused of having sent the two UN experts to the ambush and provided weapons to the killers, received a 10-year prison sentence.

The court considered there was insufficient proof to consider he organized the plot and to condemn him of war crime. According to the court, “his fault is to have received the United Nation experts in his office without informing his hierarchy“, RFI reported.

His sentence corresponds to insubordination and for having sent Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan to a place he knew was dangerous.

For the United States and Sweden the investigation needs to continue.

The Foreign Affairs Minister of Sweden, Ann Linde, wrote on Twitter it is “crucial that investigation concerning others involved continues to further uncover truth and bring justice”.

The Congolese authorities, in cooperation with the UN Mechanism, must continue their investigation into all possible leads for justice to be fully served”, the U.S. embassy in DRC said in a statement.

Read more about Sweden

U.S. Ambassador Mike Hammer Statement on the Sharp-Catalan Verdict, U.S. Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo, January 2022, Free access

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