June 27, 2008

Mutombo Bakafwa Nsenda
Minister of Justice and Human Rights

M. Kitungwa Killy Dido
Director, Centre Pénitentiaire et de Rééducation de Kinshasa (CPRK)

C/O The Democratic Republic of the Congo Permanent Mission to the United Nations
886 United Nations Plaza
Suite 511
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 319-8232

Dear Sirs,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to protest the months-long pretrial detention of L’interprète editor Nsimba Embete Ponte and his assistant Davin Ntondo Nzovuangu.

According to our information, on June 6, 2008, Mr. Ponte and Mr. Ntondo were reportedly transferred from the National Intelligence Agency (ANR) in Kinshasa, where they had been held since March, to the court of Matete, also in Kinshasa. Both men were charged with “publishing false news, threatening state security and insulting the president” on the basis of a November 30, 2006, article critical of President Kabila’s leadership and a series of February 2008 articles on the president’s health. Mr. Ponte and Mr. Ntondo had been held incommunicado for 90 and 68 days, respectively, during which time they were denied visits by lawyers, doctors, and their families. Mr. Ponte is reportedly in poor health.

On June 7, the two journalists were transferred to the Centre pénitentiaire et de rééducation de Kinshasa (formerly known as Makala). A hearing scheduled for June 13 did not take place as the judge failed to appear. At the end of June, a state prosecutor reportedly declared the journalists’ pretrial detention to be illegal as detainees can only be kept in a holding cell for 48 hours according to the Constitution of the Democractic Republic of the Congo.

PEN American Center believes the detention of Nsimba Embete Ponte and Davin Ntondo Nzovuangu to be in direct violation of Articles 22-24 of the DRC Constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the Democratic Republic of Congo is a signatory. We therefore respectfully call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Hannah Pakula                 
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee    

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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