Rights abuses in DR Congo up by a third last year: UN

AFP , Wednesday 25 Jan 2017

Human rights violations went up by almost a third last year in DR Congo due to "restrictions on democracy" and an increase in the activities of armed groups, the UN said Wednesday.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO) "has recorded at least 5,190 human rights violations across the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo," its director Jose Maria Aranaz said.

"This is a significant increase of nearly 30 percent over 2015," he said.

Political tensions have mounted in the country over longserving President Joseph Kabila's reluctance to step down.

Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, was to step down on December 20 at the end of his second and final mandate, but has shown no signs of wanting to leave office.

DR Congo's resource-rich eastern provinces have suffered years of brutal conflict, with neighbouring states backing rebel groups in a civil war against Kinshasa's authority, and roaming armed militias triggering the mass flight of terrorised civilians.

As political protest against Kabila peaked last year, the police and security forces launched a massive crackdown killing scores of people.

Aranaz said the increase in violations were due "restrictions in the democratic space" and noted that "freedom to gather peacefully was particularly restrained".

The report said that local officials and security forces responded differently to demonstrations, "banning those by the opposition but clearing the ones" in support of Kabila.

It said that security forces were responsible for 480 extra-judicial deaths, and that 718 civilians had been killed by armed groups last year.

Government spokesman Lambert Mende refsed comment, saying "For the past three years, it has always been the same type of conclusions" from the body.

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