The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has expressed its “deep concern” over what they call the arbitrary arrest and detention of two human rights workers in the African nation of Congo.

In a letter to Ambassador Serge Mombouli of the Republic of the Congo, Bishop Thomas G. Wenski, chairman of the Bishop’s committee on International Policy joined the voices of the U.S. bishops “with those of our brother bishops in the Republic of the Congo” in expressing dismay over the arrest of Brice Makosso and Christian Mounzeo.

He pointed out that the two have “now been held in custody since Friday, April 7, 2006 without charge.”

Bishop Wenski cited an April 10th declaration from the Conference of Bishops of the Congo (CEC) which stated that the prelates are “particularly alarmed by the numerous irregularities in judicial procedure leading to this incarceration that would suggest other, less explicit motives for this affair.”

“The U.S. bishops”, he said, “share the apprehension that these two men may be suffering harassment as a result of their tireless efforts to ensure a measure of transparency in the management of your country’s abundant natural resources, rather than for any sort of malfeasance.”

Calling for justice and due process of law, he added that “the U.S. bishops request you to convey to your government an urgent appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of…Makosso and Mounzeo, as well as for an end to all forms of harassment of, or reprisals against, these two defenders of human rights.”

The USCCB reported that Brice Makosso is Permanent Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Congo Bishops’ Conference, while Mr. Christian Mounzeo serves as President of the Peace and Human Rights Group (RPDH).