DRC: detention conditions of people sentenced to death
How is daily life while waiting for death?
Since 2003, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has observed a de facto moratorium on executions. The authorities do not release any information regarding the application of the death penalty in the country. In 2019, 510 prisoners sentenced to death were identified in around 15 prisons, far more than the previous estimation of 250 to 300. Given that the country has more than 80 prison facilities, this number could be even higher.
Conditions are much the same for prisoners sentenced to death as for the general prison population: serious overcrowding (sometimes more than 500%), deplorable sanitary conditions and insufficient food and medication. These difficult conditions have serious consequences for prisoners’ physical and mental health. For the most part, they are incarcerated in isolated facilities, which makes it difficult for family ties to be maintained and for legal proceedings to be properly monitored.
The system is described as discriminatory, arbitrary and corrupt. It is a system characterised by its manifold judicial failings and by informal hierarchies where some prisoners wield considerable powers to, among other things, maintain order and control resources.
Prison Insider gathered information on the detention conditions of people sentenced to death in nine countries. Here is an overview of the situation in the DRC.
— The information presented comes principally from the report Towards a Silent Death: Conditions of Detention of People Sentenced to Death, Democratic Republic of the Congo produced by Carole Berrih and Liévin Ndondji for Together Against the Death Penalty (Ensemble contre la peine de mort, ECPM) in 2019. Additional sources were also used which are mentioned when referenced.
The majority of interviewees explained that a sum of money is requested in return for a favourable judgement.
Liévin Ngondji is a lawyer in the DRC, president of the NGO Culture for Peace and Justice and a member of the Coalition of French-speaking Africa Against the Death Penalty. He looks back on how legislation has evolved and the current state of affairs for prisoners sentenced to death in the country.