French investigator: No torture in Congo

The French investigation of the events that took place in the Chem-Chem camp in Bunia in 2003 concludes that the young Congolese taken prisoner by French forces was neither subjected to torture nor excessively ill-treated.

The investigation has been conducted by the Inspectorate for Operational Forces and Territorial Defence (IFODT) and was lead by Lieutenant General Patrick Paimbault. The results of the investigation have now been communicated to the French Commander-in-Chief, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, and to the Swedish military authorities.

Focused on 13 July
During the investigation, evidence was given by a dozen or so French military personnel who were present in the Chem-Chem camp at the time of the incident. And through the good offices of the Swedish Armed Forces, ten Swedish military personnel who were in Congo in 2003 were also able to testify. Two of them have been to Paris to answer questions.

The investigation has focused on the events of 13 July 2003 when a 20-year old Congolese was held in custody in the camp for several hours. The man was captured in the vicinity of the French-Swedish EU camp and, according to one of the accusers, was treated in a way that infringed international rules.

IFODT's investigation has reconstructed the following facts: The young man, who had gained entry to the camp by climbing over the first barbed wire barrier, was detained in the camp. During that time a hood was temporarily placed over his head while he was moved within the camp. The reason for this was to prevent him making an accurate reconnaissance of the camp, something that could have been of use to the militia who were causing havoc in the region.

Was in a disturbed state
The young Congolese was in a disturbed state. He had to wait three hours before being questioned and during that time he was shouting and chanting hymns. For a part of the time he was waiting, first for 45 minutes and later for 15 minutes, he was forced to stand upright. According to the French investigator, the Congolese’s hands were bound but at no time was he ill-treated. After he had been questioned, the man was released several kilometres from the camp. He had obviously had no ill intentions towards the European forces.

Personal conflicts
In considering all the witness statements, Lieutenant General Patrick Paimbault states that only one witness is definite in his accusations against the military forces who were present. IFODT’s investigation shows that the motives behind the evidence given by this witness could have been personal, stemming from personal conflicts.

The main part of the statements made by the Swedish and French soldiers is in agreement with the chronological sequence of events. According to IFODT, the young man was not subjected to any inhuman or degrading treatment as described in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The French investigator states that there were procedural shortcomings in that the French force failed to inform the Swedes there and then of the course of events that had taken place.

The conclusions of the investigation show that the grave allegations made against the French and Swedish forces in general, and against Colonel Christophe Rastouil and the Swedish Colonel Hans Alm in particular, are without foundation.