Congo must release human rights activists, says rights group

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been urged to unconditionally release nine Congolese human rights and pro-democracy activists detained for participating in peaceful activities.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), together with 45 Congolese and other human rights organisations, called for their release on Monday.
According to HRW, four of the activists were arrested in mid-July in Mbuji-Mayi and five others on July 31 in Lubumbashi.

“The Congolese authorities have thrown activists in jail for joining peaceful protests calling for elections and for Congo’s constitution to be respected,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at HRW.

However, the nine activists represent only some of the hundreds detained by Kinshasa since its brutal crackdown on political opponents as part of President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to hold on to power since his constitutional two-term limit ended in December 2016.

Those targeted have included human rights and pro-democracy activists, political opposition leaders and supporters, journalists, and people suspected of having links to the political opposition. During their detention on trumped-up charges some have complained of torture, mistreatment, being held in secret detention for months at a time, and without access to family or lawyers.

The Lubumbashi activists were arrested after partaking in a peaceful protest against the national electoral commission’s failure to publish an electoral calendar.

Authorities arrested at least 128 people in nine cities during protests across the country that day, including 11 journalists.
The pro-democracy activists arrested in mid-July had been investigating transparency in the voter registration process in Kasaï Oriental province.

They were accused of disclosing personal information people provided to the national electoral commission during voter registration, charges that appear to be politically motivated, the organisations said.

– By ANA