At least 40 people have been killed and another 460 arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week during protests against President Joseph Kabila's refusal to leave office, the UN said Friday.
"The UN Joint Human Rights Office in the DRC (UNJHRO) has documented at least 40 killings of civilians in Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, Boma and Matadi," the United Nations human rights office said in Geneva.
Those killed were "mainly" people protesting against Kabila's refusal to step down after his second and final term, which officially ended on December 20, rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters.
"Some 107 people have been injured or ill-treated and there have been at least 460 arrests," she added.
In a statement, UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the high casualty figures suggested DR Congo's security services had shown "a serious disregard" for the need for restraint.
"Not only are soldiers participating in law enforcement operations, but all the forces involved are heavily armed and using live ammunition," Zeid said.
Chronically-unstable DR Congo has been thrust into political limbo by Kabila's refusal to quit the presidency.
Hopes were raised Thursday that deal between the government and opposition brokered by the influential Catholic church could be signed imminently, but a source close to the negotiations said Friday that "complications" were holding up a final agreement.
Zeid warned that the political crisis could be leading to "wider destabilisation" across the country.
"Violent repression of dissenting voices and a heavy-handed and irresponsible response to demonstrations risk provoking violence in return by demonstrators and possibly even tipping the constitutional crisis over the president's future into further conflict across the country," the rights chief said.