Norway denounces Congolese death sentence

congoNorway has denounced the sentencing to death of two Norwegian citizens in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store claimed that the decision handed down by a military tribunal in the city of Kisangani was totally unacceptable: “Norway is against the death penalty on principle, and I will contact the Congolese Foreign Minister to make our position clear,” he told the Norway Post, adding: “I will emphasise that legal safeguards must be maintained, and that we hold the Congolese authorities responsible for the safety of the two Norwegians. I will also request that Norway’s views are communicated to the appropriate authorities in Kisangani.”

Norway has since received guarantees from the Congolese authorities that the men would not be executed, but their fate remains unclear. The two ex-military servicemen, Joshua French and Tjostalv Moland, were arrested and convicted on suspicion of murdering their driver, importing legal weapons, attempted murder and planning hostile acts against the Congolese state. They had claimed they were in the country to set up a private security firm, although at the time said they were merely tourists in the oil rich Orientale Province in a country noted for its lack of tourism, particularly ones with automatic weapons.

The pair claimed they had been attacked by armed militia who shot their driver before they managed to escape. They were found hundreds of kilometres from the scene and had not reported the attack. In response, the Congolese court condemned the men to death, despite capital punishment no longer being part of national law. The pair were also accused of spying for Norway and ordered to pay USD 60 million in damages; one dollar for each Congolese citizen.

Gahr Store went on to advise that Norway strongly repudiated the verdict. “Norway is not a party in this case,” said the Store, adding that, “Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remain in Kisangani until further notice to assist the two Norwegian citizens in this difficult situation, and to assess what kind of help they will need in the time ahead.”

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