Voice of the Voiceless is Silenced

The New York Times reported today on the killing of a Congolese human rights activities. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was found dead in his car on June 2nd, in the Mont Ngafula neighborhood of Kinshasa.

He is described in the article as an “intense man who kept going, kept investigating, and kept speaking out, on the radio, in news conferences and at the head of demonstrations, year after year, in the face of constant threats and occasional beatings.” His organzation, Voice of the Voiceless, was a tirless advocate for human rights.

Government involvement in the killings is suspected; he was detained by the police the night before his death, and he had suffered at the hands of police forces in the past. In 2009, he was thrown down the stairs by police, handcuffed, and jailed.

His death has led to widespread outrage and demands for investigation. The US Embassy called for “an immediate and independent investigation and autopsy, with UN oversight, to determine the cause of his death.” And went on to state that “We also welcome the June 3 statement by the DRC government that it intends to conduct a thorough investigation. The United States stands ready to provide U.S. forensic experts to assist the Congolese authorities in their inquiry into the death of Mr. Chebeya.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon eulogized Chebeya, saying “his reputation as a champion of human rights earned him the respect and admiration of his compatriots and of the international community.”

It is a profoundly dangerous world for human rights activities all over the globe. Floribert Chebeya Bahizire’s death is a reminder that heroic individuals continue to risk, and lose, their lives for others. His  dedication will be missed. I think the world will always need human rights activistists, but maybe one day they won’t have to risk their lives.