Sweden pushes for UN to help investigate murder of expert in DRC

Sweden pushes for UN to help investigate murder of expert in DRC
Former Green Party activist Zaida Catalán was killed in the DRC in March. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT
Sweden wants the UN to help with investigations into the murder of an expert killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), after the African country's attorney general opened a probe into allegations that a former minister played a role in her death.

36-year-old Zaida Catalán was found dead with American colleague Michael Sharp and their Congolese interpreter after being kidnapped in the African nation last March. She had gone to the conflict-ridden province of Kasaï-Central to investigate reported human rights abuses.

On Tuesday, the DRC's highest prosecutor said that an investigation had been opened into allegations that a former minister played a role in the military violence in which the UN worker was killed. The decision followed a New York Times report which revealed that Catalán had been looking into former Congolese minister of development Clément Kanku's possible role in inciting violence in the region.

Among the files on the Swede's computer were a recorded phone conversation in which Kanku apparently discussed setting fire to a town in the region with a subordinate, as well as a jailbreak, targeted assassinations and “general mayhem”, the newspaper reported. Kanku has rejected the allegations.

“If at the end of this investigation I am convinced that the facts are established regarding the relevant charges, (Kanku) will be charged with participation in an insurrectional movement, assassination, voluntary arson, malicious destruction and association with criminals,” DRC Attorney General Flory Numbi said.

Sweden has already opened a preliminary investigation into murder, as has the US, but authorities have yet to receive information from the DRC.

Sweden has asked UN Secretary-General António Guterres to help push for investigations into the murder of Catalán and her colleague to move forward.

“We are taking up an initiative at the UN asking the Secretary-General to act so the various police investigations lead to results,” Swedish Cabinet Secretary Annika Söder said. Sweden expects the support of Sharp's homeland. The UN has been critcized for not giving the experts extra training or protection in the region.

“We want there to be results so that those who murdered Zaida Catalán and Michael Sharp are brought before a court,” Söder added.

READ ALSO: Body of kidnapped UN expert flown home from DRC

On Wednesday evening, the UN Secretary-General's press spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said that “the staff members were fully briefed on security protocols” when working in the area.

Asked if the Secretary-General will call on the UN Security Council to establish an independent investigation into what happened, he replied:

“It is up to the Council to give us a mandate, and we would, obviously, implement that mandate with zeal to try to find out what happened to our two colleagues and especially in the atrocious way they seem to have been killed”.

Sweden is currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council after being elected in June last year for the 2017-18 period.