Brazzaville – The families of six youths found dead in police custody in Congo-Brazzaville in 2021 are suing the state for damages, a rights group supporting them said on Friday.
Officials said the six, whose bodies were found in a police jail in the capital Brazzaville in November, had probably died as a result of overcrowding but family members and rights groups have disputed this account.
“We and the families are filing a civil lawsuit to find out who was responsible and obtain compensation,” Tresor Nzila, an activist with the Centre for Development Action (CAD), told AFP.
The civil action was lodged with the Brazzaville court by relatives of four of the six victims.
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Nzila explained it had taken time to start legal action because the case “has to be dealt with rigorously”.
“We had to wait for the results of the autopsies and collect other information,” he said.
Nzila added that the families felt “abandoned by the government”.
A forensic expert who carried out autopsies on four of the six corpses ruled that the victims had died of assault and battery.
Government spokesperson Thierry Moungalla told AFP in November the deaths were “probably a tragedy linked to prison overcrowding”.
But Arnaud Nasimakoko, brother of one of the dead youths, told AFP: “They told us my brother died of suffocation.”
“But we saw his body covered all over with blood.”
The CAD believes “torture has become endemic” in the central African country.
In January, public prosecutor Andre Ngakala Oko ordered the arrest of four police officers accused of torturing three youths, two of whom died.
In 2018, 13 young men were found dead at a police station in Brazzaville’s eastern Mpila district.
Six policemen were subsequently convicted of killing them and jailed for up to three years.
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