DRC: psychologically, I am no longer human’ – life after 20 years on death row

On January 16, 2001, the Democratic Republic of Congo President Laurent-Désiré Kabila was murdered. Under pressure to find the culprits, the police arrested members of his personal guard. Lieutenant Richard Yav was among them. Richard was tortured and sentenced to death for a crime he never committed, after what the African Commission for Human Rights considers a rigged trial. The 61-year old soldier was released in 2021 thanks to measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, after spending 20 years on death row.

I was locked up in a cell with no windows, so I didn’t see the light of day for 20 years. If I wanted to use the toilet, I had to ask, but the guards would sometimes refuse. I didn’t receive any food—I only ate thanks to my friends and family who came to drop off meals for me. Prison here is not like in Europe. In the DRC, prisons are places of death.