DRC: Persistent suppression of civic space despite official rhetoric
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains in deep human rights and humanitarian crisis as political tensions continue to build over the long delayed elections which were supposed to be held in November 2016 but now rescheduled for 23 December 2018.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned by the persistent wide range of abuses including excessive use of lethal force during peaceful demonstrations, arbitrary arrests and detentions, intimidation and harassment. These abuses are committed with near total impunity in the context of a deliberate and systematic suppression of civic and political space ahead of elections. DRC authorities have ignored calls from the Congolese citizens and the international community to end the abuses by security forces in the context of the scheduled elections.
On 31 December 2017, 21 January 2018 and 25 February 2018, peaceful demonstrations organized by the Catholic Lay Coordination Committee (CLC) were brutally repressed by the security forces using excessive force, killing at least 17 people, wounding scores mostly by gunshot, and arbitrarily arresting at least 405 people. The demonstrators were demanding the full implementation of the confidence-building measures provided for in the 31 December 2016 political agreement brokered by the Catholic Bishops. The confidence-building measures include the release of political prisoners and re-opening of civic and media space. In Kinshasa, where the most significant demonstrations took place, Amnesty International investigated and gathered evidence of how security forces, including the police, the army, the Presidential Guard and other security agents in civilian clothes attacked peaceful demonstrators and by-standers in the streets, homes, and even inside churches, parish courts and health facilities. Soldiers took the bodies of some victims killed during the demonstrations and deprived their families of burying them with dignity.