Joint statement of International NGOs on the arrest of Virunga Park Ranger, Rodrigue Katembo Mugaruka
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - On Thursday, 19th September, Rodrigue Katembo Mugaruka a warden in Virunga National Park and recipient of the Abraham Conservation Award was arrested by Congolese security forces and taken to Goma. We, the undersigned, are extremely concerned about the ranger's well-being and the circumstances of his arrest.
Although more than 12 days have passed since Mugaruka's arrest, no legitimate formal charges have been brought against the ranger. The situation is in clear violation of Congolese law, which requires charges to be presented within 48 hours of an arrest.
The circumstances of ranger Mugaruka's arrest suggest that it is a direct consequence of his work in upholding the law and protecting the national park. Specifically, two days before his arrest, Mugaruka declined to allow officials acting on behalf of British oil company, SOCO International to carry out work inside the park for which they did not possess proper legal authorization. As a warden of Virunga National Park on active duty, Mugaruka is mandated under Congolese law to discharge his role of law enforcement officer for The Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation (ICCN), DRC's national wildlife authority.
We are now calling for clarification of the charges that are to being leveled against him. We are increasingly concerned that due process is not being followed in Mugaruka's case in line with DRC law, which clearly require formal charges to be made within 48 hours of arrest.
We reiterate our support for the administration of Virunga National Park, its rangers, and the local communities. We also wish to manifest our support for the statement issued Friday 27th of September, by the local civil society of North Kivu.
The group notes that oil extraction in a world heritage site remains illegal under international law.
Signed By :
Rainforest Foundation Norway
Forest Peoples Programme
Zoological Society of London