DR Congo Government "Killed 500 Opponents," Human Rights Group Claims
IT has been claimed today by a civil liberties group, Human Rights Warch (HRW) that the Congolese government deliberately destroyed a number of their opponents, with up to 500 people believed to have been victims, since ballots that took place in 2006
If true it would lend irony to the "Democratic Republic" designation. DR Congo has one of the worst war records in the world with more people killed in one region than the entire number of victims in World War II. The conflicts have arisen because Congo is mineral rich and historically composed of warring tribes.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Congolese security forces had deliberately killed more than 500 people in a campaign against opposition groups.
A government spokesman told the BBC the allegations were false.
HRW said the abuses were attracting scant attention because everyone was focusing on the conflict in the east.
More than 250,000 people have fled their homes since fighting erupted in August between government troops and rebels loyal to Tutsi General Laurent Nkunda. See detailed map of the area
On Monday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that all parties involved in the conflict had committed serious human rights abuses.
His special envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, has urged Congolese President Joseph Kabila to talk with Gen Nkunda in order to prevent the situation from worsening.
In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Mr Kabila's government of "brutal repression" following elections in July 2006 aimed at bringing democracy to the country after years of fighting.
Five hundred perceived opponents had been killed since then and another 1,000 had been detained - many of whom reported being tortured, it said. This, of course, together with the rebellion in the east, is dramatically undermining Congo's ability to develop a democratic state
Anneke Van Woudenberg,
Human Rights Watch
Many of those targeted were supporters of defeated presidential candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba and of another political group in the west of the country.
Opposition groups had also used violence, HRW said. "In these cases, the police and army had a duty to restore order, but often did so with excessive force," it said.
Lambert Mende, a government spokesman, said the report did not reflect the facts.
Congolese judges could not avoid convicting people who had committed crimes on the basis that they were political opponents, he said.
But Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher for HRW, said that the group had documented the use of "brutal force" against government critics.
"This, of course, together with the rebellion in the east, is dramatically undermining Congo's ability to develop a democratic state," she told the BBC.