The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the arrest and detention of lawyer Sylva Mbikayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Toronto, ON - The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses grave concern about the arrest and detention of lawyer Sylva Mbikayi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Law Society received reports that on July 13, 2017, Sylva Mbikayi, a lawyer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested in the capital city of Kinshasa and detained at the Military Intelligence Headquarters (DEMIAP) in Bumba. 

Sylva Mbikayi was arrested without a warrant and without being informed of the reasons for his arrest when he went to DEMIAP to consult his client and friend, activist and lawyer-in-training Jean-Marie Kalonji, who was being detained there. 

Jean-Marie Kalonji was arrested a few hours earlier at an exit check-point of a military camp. He had his bag searched by soldiers after he explained “he could not show his passport because it was with an embassy where he had applied for a visa.” The soldiers who stopped him questioned his nationality and found in his bag “flyers for a Lumumba scholarship programme set up by the youth movement Quatrième Voie/il est temps (the fourth way/ it is time).” Jean-Marie Kalonji was then arrested. 

Sylva Mbikayi was immediately notified of Jean-Marie Kalonji's arrest, and when he went to visit Jean-Marie Kalonji at DEMIAP, Sylva Mbikayi was arrested as well. 

Both men have been detained at DEMIAP since their arrest, without being allowed contact with their family members or access to lawyer. 

In light of these circumstances, the Law Society urges the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to comply with the Democratic Republic of Congo's obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations' Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

 Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states: 

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics. 

Article 17 states: 

Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities. 

Article 18 states:

Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions. 

Furthermore, Article 23 provides: 

Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization. 

The Law Society urges the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to: 

Immediately and unconditionally withdraw all charges against Sylva Mbikayi; 

Immediately and unconditionally release Sylva Mbikayi; 

Pending his release, immediately disclose the whereabouts of Sylva Mbikayi, and ensure that he/she is detained in an official place of detention, is not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, has regular, unrestricted access to his family, lawyers of his choice, and medical care on request or as necessary; 

Pending his release, ensure that during his detention, Sylva Mbikayi is treated in accordance with applicable international standards; 

Ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical violence or other human rights violations; and 

Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments. 

The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

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For more information, please contact Susan Tonkin, Communications Advisor - Media Relations, at 416-947-7605 or

The Law Society of Upper Canada
Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N6
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