Following a complaint lodged by the families of the victims in August 2000, the Prosecutor of the High Court of Brazzaville took the first steps towards what would have permitted, according to the government, the opening up of a judicial investigation.
However, the first legal proceedings only took place in July 2004, five years after the first complaint was lodged with the Congolese judicial authorities. Emmanuel Avoukou was thus indicted only in July 2004.
The trial, known as the “Beach Disappearances” finally opened up before the Brazzaville Criminal Court on 19 July 2005 in the absence of the plaintiffs who had not been summoned to attend.
On 9 August, the Prosecutor, in his address to the court, acknowledged that there had indeed been disappearances of Congolese refugees at the Beach. However, the number of these disappearances, according to the Prosecutor, remains a mystery. According to the Prosecutor, the declarations, depositions and evidence from eye witnesses concerning the allegations are evident. However, for the Prosecutor, neither genocide nor war crimes were committed. The only charge brought against the accused which then remained was that of crimes against humanity. For negligence in the performance of their functions and for conspiracy, the Prosecutor called for the conviction of seven of the fifteen accused on the charges with which they had been indicted.
The public prosecutor called for the acquittal of Emmanuel Avoukou.
On 17 August 2005, the Brazzaville Criminal Court found all of the 15 indicted not guilty of the charges held against them, adding that the proof necessary to reconstitute the chain of command and thus establish the responsibility of the accused concerning the disappearances was lacking.
Nevertheless, the judge assigned the civil costs for these disappearances to the Congolese state which, during this time of war, was not sufficiently prepared to ensure the safety of the Congolese repatriates who had answered its call. The Congolese state, as a result, was therefore sentenced to pay reparations of up to 10 million FCFA (15.000 Euros), to the eligible claimants of each missing person whose name figured on the sailing manifest established by the High Commissioner for Refugees.
Some families of the victims filed an appeal. On 4 May 2007, the Congolese Supreme Court decided to increase the amount of the pay reparations and rejected all the other demands. This decision closes the proceedings in front of the Congolese courts.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.