French deny Congo torture claims

The French military have formally denied claims broadcast by Swedish television of torturing a Congolese militia member in 2003.

The results of a French military probe into allegations, first aired in a Sveriges Television (SVT) documentary entitled “Joseph’s Fate” on April 1st, were published in Paris on Friday.

The probe has shown that only one of the 12 French and ten Swedish soldiers interviewed in connection with the incident on July 13th 2003 confirm the version of events in SVT’s documentary and supported accusations of torture against French soldiers.

The probe was undertaken by the French military’s inspection of overseas forces and territorial defence (Ifodet), and headed by Lieutenant-General Patrick Paimbault. The report has been submitted to the French armed forces supreme command and Swedish military authorities have been informed.

The report concludes that Congolese militia member, known only as Joseph, tried to jump the fence at the Franco-Swedish military compound Chem-Chem in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo on July 13th 2003. He was then arrested, hand-cuffed and hooded as he was transported across the compound. These details were consistent with SVT’s documentary.

According to the report there was then a three-hour delay before Joseph could be interrogated, he was forced to stand for an hour of this wait. Joseph was reported to have been angry and chanted psalms continuously.

After the subsequent interrogation Joseph was released a distance from the perimeter of the camp, the report asserts.

Lieutenant-General Patrick Paimbault has therefore concluded from the report that no injustice or breach of the European Convention on Human Rights has occurred.

The only mistake that has been recognised in the report was that the Swedish forces were not informed by the French of what was happening.

The French military’s version of events contained in the report published on Friday therefore differs considerably from an analysis by Stefan Ryding-Berg, Director of Legal affairs at the Swedish Armed Forces.

The Local reported on April 3rd that Swedish soldiers stationed in the Chem-Chem camp had told SVT’s documentary that Joseph had been interrogated for up to eight hours and that they had heard him scream. The documentary claimed that electrical equipment had been used in the interrogation.

The documentary team have to date been unable to trace Joseph.