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NEW YORK (February 8, 2022) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) mourns the passing of prominent human rights and pro-democracy activist Hervé Mombo Kinga, who died in his native Gabon, following complications due to COVID-19. Gabon’s authoritarian regime had imprisoned Mr. Kinga for over 17 months for his peaceful activism against rigged elections, corruption, and poor governance in the country.

Mr. Kinga gained a following on social media beginning in 2015 with his series of Facebook videos criticizing repression, injustices, poor public services, and deleterious living conditions for ordinary Gabonese citizens under dictator Ali Bongo’s regime. In the wake of Gabon’s rigged 2016 presidential election — which allowed Ali Bongo Ondimba to serve yet another term, thereby extending his family’s rule over the small central African country to its fifth decade — Mr. Kinga, better known under the pseudonym “Matricule 001” (Resistance Soldier Number 001), joined a civil disobedience movement against Bongo. On August 28, 2017, Mr. Kinga was arrested while participating in a protest march against the results of the rigged polls. 

“The Gabonese regime contributed to Mr. Kinga’s vulnerable health by arbitrarily detaining him for nearly two years, and failing to provide him with proper medical attention during that time,” said HRF Director of Legal & Programs Michelle Gulino. “Mr. Kinga’s story is emblematic of the type of systematic oppression enforced by authoritarian regimes against peaceful citizens who exercise their freedom of expression and of opinion to publicly expose regime injustices. His death is a reminder of the need for continued global advocacy efforts to elevate the causes of freedom and democracy.”

In January 2019, as part of its Impact Litigation program, HRF submitted a petition to the United Nation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) on Mr. Kinga’s behalf, arguing his detention was in violation of international law. After his health deteriorated while in detention, HRF followed this submission with an Urgent Appeal to the attention of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council, requesting that it initiate an immediate formal investigation into Mr. Kinga’s wrongful arrest, unwarranted charges, and pre-trial detention. 

 

Within a few weeks of HRF’s submission, a UN communication was sent to the government of Gabon, and Mr. Kinga was released the following month, after nearly 18 months in detention. Following his release from prison, Mr. Kinga resumed his activism and continued to speak out against poor governance, including against the regime’s policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June 2019, HRF won its case before the UNWGAD against the dictatorship of Gabon. The Working Group declared that Mr. Kinga’s detention and deprivation of liberty were, in fact, arbitrary under numerous categories, and that he was entitled to compensation from the government of Gabon. Mr. Kinga publicly thanked HRF for its successful role in his case, stating: “I would like to pay a well-deserved tribute to the Human Rights Foundation for its advocacy at the United Nations and the strength of its multifaceted support in wresting me out of the inhuman jails of the Bongo dictatorship in Gabon. I regain my freedom to continue even more intensely the fight for democracy and respect for citizens’ rights in my country.”

Mr. Kinga had been suffering from several illnesses dating back to his detention and was at high risk of contracting COVID-19, given these and other vulnerabilities. HRF has aligned with Mr. Kinga’s advocacy efforts since his release, and most recently, showcased commissioned artwork by Tanzanian political cartoonist Gado at the 2021 Oslo Freedom Forum in Miami, in recognition of Mr. Kinga’s efforts. 

HRF will continue to celebrate Mr. Kinga’s life and work to carry on his activism by maintaining its commitment to promoting and protecting human rights where it is most at risk and uniting people in the common cause of democracy.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies. For further comment, please contact [email protected].