DR Congo police accused of executions

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An international rights group accused Congolese police of summarily executing at least 27 people, some bound, strangled and mutilated in a crackdown on gangs in Kinshasa last year.

Police in Democratic Republic of Congo denied the allegations in a report by US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The report, based on interviews with nearly 80 witnesses, victims’ family members, security officials and others, adds to allegation that Kinshasa police executed suspected gang members.

President Felix Tshisekedi, sworn in last month, vowed to clean up human rights abuses by the country’s security forces he frequently criticised during the tenure of his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi spokesman, Vidiye Tshimanga, declined to comment on the report.

Kinshasa’s police chief, General Sylvano Kasongo, accused in the report of close involvement in the operation, denied it happened.

“Police in Kinshasa did not kill people. We arrest them and bring them to justice. We do not murder,” he told Reuters.

The report said police carried out Operation Likofi – meaning “punch” in the local Lingala language – between May and December 2018.

During late night swoops, masked police rounded up unarmed young men, killed them and often disposed of their bodies near their homes in an apparent attempt to make the killings appear to be urban crime, the report said.

A witness to one killing last May told HRW police strangled the victim with a black wire until he started convulsing before dumping his body near his house.

Some victims had marks indicating their arms were tied behind their backs and at least three had amputated genitals, the report said. Seven other people taken by police during the operation are still missing, it added.

Prior reports about killings of gang members provoked a backlash by Kinshasa authorities. In 2014,  government expelled the United Nations’ human rights chief in Congo after his office released a report accusing police of executing at least nine people during a crackdown.

On Tuesday, Congo’s security council declared gang violence one of seven security priorities for the Tshisekedi administration.