Sentencing due today for Brit facing death in DRC despite severe mental illness
February 11, 2014
A British man facing the death penalty in the Democratic Republic of Congo is due to be sentenced today despite worsening mental illness and concerns over his treatment at the hands of fellow prisoners.
Legal charity Reprieve has written to David Cameron urging the British government to do everything they can to help Joshua. Joshua French, a British citizen, is due to be sentenced in a military court for the murder of his cellmate, despite expert reports having concluded that it was a suicide.
Joshua is acutely psychotic – he is paranoid and delusional and refusing to eat or drink. Despite repeated and ongoing requests, Joshua has to date received only a few hours of basic care outside of Ndolo Military Prison where he is being held.
There are also grave concerns over Joshua’s treatment in the prison. In her correspondence with Reprieve, which is assisting Joshua, his mother Kari Hilde has described the beatings to which he has been subjected at the hands of fellow prisoners. She wrote that he had been hit in the jaw by one prisoner causing him to lose part of a tooth. Prison guards were apparently present at the time but did not do anything to help Joshua.
Joshua, who also holds a Norwegian passport, has been held in the DRC for nearly 5 years along with Tjostolv Moland, a Norwegian, since being sentenced to death in 2009. Both men had always maintained their innocence after a flawed trial which saw witnesses providing conflicting testimonies and a total lack of any physical evidence against them.
On the morning of 18 August last year, Joshua awoke to find that Mr Moland had killed himself. According to the Congolese police, an autopsy conducted jointly by them and the Norwegian police agency Kripos confirmed that Mr Moland had committed suicide. However, Joshua was put on trial for Mr Moland’s murder.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, said: “Joshua’s already horrific situation is now critical. He is at grave risk of losing his life – through illness or at the hands of the Congolese authorities – and the British government should do everything in their power to have him transferred out of the prison so he may receive the urgent medical help he desperately needs.”