- The hidden crimes of systematic detention, torture and murder committed against the opponents of the government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by security forces has been exposed.
Amnesty International (AI) that exposed the crimes in a newly published report asked the government of President Joseph Kabila to urgently and independently investigate the alleged cases.
Dubbed "Torture and Killings by state security agents still endemic" the report documents the leading role taken by the special services police (Direction des Renseignements Généraux et Services Spéciaux de la police) in the arbitrary arrest and torture of scores of supposed political opponents of Mr Kabila's ruling party. The crackdown took place in the capital Kinshasa during and after the 2006-2007 electoral period.
"Many people have been targeted by the security forces simply because they share the same ethnicity as Jean-Pierre Bemba [Kabila's main political rival] during the elections," Director of AI's Africa Programme, Erwin van der Borght, said.
"Many of these individuals are still in prison without charge or trial. All those interviewed by Amnesty International reported torture and ill-treatment in detention and yet no member of the security forces has been brought to justice. The climate of intimidation and fear in Kinshasa has intensified as a result," he added.
Grave human rights violations by Kabila's Republican Guard in the wake of March 2007 fighting between government forces and fighters loyal to Bemba have also been highlighted in the new report. The report chronicled alleged murder of at least 27 detainees [whose bodies were then dumped in the River Congo] in late March 2007.
The report blames the slow progress of security sector report and an institutional culture that permits human rights violations as the key factors preventing substantial progress on human rights in the country.
"Despite historic national elections, deep political uncertainty persists in the DRC and respect for human rights has not advanced. Many security forces continue to serve narrow political interests and this lies at the root of the lack of public confidence felt by most Congolese," said Erwin.
"It is crucial that police reform becomes a priority and that the Kabila government renews efforts to ensure all government and armed opposition forces are integrated into one politically-neutral and accountable entity that operates within Congolese and international human rights law."
"As part of its continued support to Security Sector Reform, the international community should insist on robust DRC government action now to end impunity for human rights violations and bring the perpetrators to justice," he said.
The March fighting between the government forces and Bemba's fighters resulted to the deaths of at least 600 people, including many civilians who became victims of indiscriminate and disproportionate fire by armed forces.
Described as being a source of major insecurity in Kinshasha in the run-up to the fighting, Bemba's fighters were also blamed for being responsible for committing human rights abuses.
The report cited shocking testimonies of Coquette Nsinga, a 25 year old student and member of Jean Pierre Bemba's Mouvement de Liberation du Congo and Colonel Paul Ndokayi who were arrested by the special service police on political ground. Detained for several months, Nsinga and Ndokayi endured beatings and tortures for being members of Bemba's party.
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