Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


The Prison System

The administration of prisons is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Keeper of the Seals. Central prisons are located in the regional capitals and large urban centers, with district prisons, territorial prisons, detention centers, and informal lockups scattered among other towns and villages at lower administrative levels. In addition, some of the rural prison camps established to handle mass arrests and political detainees during the turbulence of the 1960s have occasionally been reactivated for similar purposes. A small number of juvenile detention centers exist, but they are not common, and most young offenders are released to their family's custody.

Prison facilities are grossly inadequate; living conditions are harsh and unsanitary, and prisoners are poorly treated. The system is marked by severe shortages of funds, equipment (including medicine and medical facilities), food, and trained personnel. Overcrowding and corruption are widespread. Reports of prisoners being tortured, beaten to death, deprived of food and water, or dying of starvation are common. Prison officials and guards typically steal from the often meager provisions of food and supplies available, and many prisoners are wholly dependent on family and friends for their survival. In 1993 there were reports that there was little food for inmates at the central prison in Kinshasa; the Red Cross was supplying some food to supplement the meager rations.

An "inspector corps" was formed by the government in 1987 to oversee prison conditions and operation. However, it lacks adequate manpower, transport vehicles, and government support to realize its mission. Also, it has no jurisdiction over the secret detention centers used by security forces for interrogation and imprisonment. Although persons arrested for political crimes traditionally have not been placed in prisons, they nevertheless are unlawfully detained by nonjudicial means, their cases are rarely brought to trial, and they are held incommunicado in detention centers or in internal exile.

Data as of December 1993