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Congo security forces killed dozens protesters

By on October 21, 2016

Congolese security services shot, burned, beat and hacked to death at least 48 civiliansand reportedly hired thugs to attack protests last month against the extension of President Joseph Kabila’s mandate, the United Nations said on Friday.

The death toll came from two days of violence in the capital Kinshasa and included four police officers killed by protesters and one other civilian. It was higher than during the 2011 electoral process, the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office in Congo (UNJHRO) said in a report.

The interior minister denied last week that on-duty security forces opened fire on protesters, who authorities say were conducting an armed insurrection. A government report said 32 people, including three police officers, were killed by protesters or private security guards, or in accidents.

The governing coalition and other smaller parties agreed last week to postpone elections planned for November until April 2018, citing logistical woes registering millions of voters, but most major opposition parties rejected the accord.

In total, UNJHRO said, there were at least 422 victims of human rights abuses by state agents in Kinshasa between Sept. 19 and 21. “This is clearly outrageous and serves to fuel an already explosive situation in the country,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.

Of the civilians killed, 38 were shot by the police, army and presidential guard and seven were burned to death by members of the presidential guard, including during an attack on the headquarters of the main opposition party, the report said.

Four police officers were burned alive or beaten to death by protesters who also looted the headquarters of ruling coalition political parties, according to UNJHRO.

The death toll could be much higher due to the authorities’ restrictions on access to morgues and other facilities, it said.

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor sent a delegation to Congo this week to urge restraint by all parties in the coming months and warned that human rights abuses could be prosecuted by the court.

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