DRC probes vote-linked killings
Kinshasa - Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo pledged on Thursday to investigate a report that security forces have killed at least 24 people since President Joseph Kabila's contested re-election.
Justice Minister Emmanuel Luzolo Bambi said that his office would work with Human Rights Watch to try to document each case, and that he had already spoken with prosecutors.
"If the allegations are verified, the justice department will take action," he said.
HRW late on Wednesday released a report stating security forces had killed at least 24 people and "arbitrarily" arrested dozens more in DR Congo since Kabila's disputed victory was announced on December 9.
All but four died in Kinshasa between then and December 14. Two more were killed in eastern Nord Kivu province, and two in central Kasai Occidental.
Human Rights Watch said it also documented an attack where local youths in the capital threw rocks at a priest, who later died from his injuries.
Since the election commission issued results showing Kabila had won the November 28 presidential vote, "security forces have been firing on small crowds, apparently trying to prevent protests against the result", said Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher at HRW.
"These bloody tactics further undermine the electoral process and leave the impression that the government will do whatever it takes to stay in power," she said.
The US-based human rights watchdog said after interviewing 86 victims and witnesses it had received dozens of reports of other killings and attacks by security forces which "it is seeking to confirm".
Kabila's victory with 49% of the vote was upheld even after international observers criticised electoral conditions, citing problems in the vote count and the loss of huge numbers of ballots.
The election commission said late on Wednesday it was suspending compilation of certain results in the legislative elections, held in tandem with the presidentials, following requests from political parties.
"So as to guarantee the transparency and credibility" of the legislative polls, operations in all local compilation centres "are suspended, pending the arrival of international supervision and technical support teams", the body said.
Opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, given 32% of the presidential vote, contends he won the poll but was denied victory by massive fraud.
He issued thousands of leaflets on Wednesday calling on people to attend his own "swearing-in" ceremony taking place three days after Kabila took office.
HRW said in its statement that "police and other security forces appear to be covering up the scale of the killings by quickly removing the bodies". It singled out the police and the Kabila's bodyguard, the Republican Guard, for blame.
"Several sources informed Human Rights Watch that the government had instructed hospitals and morgues not to provide information about the number of dead or any details about individuals with bullet wounds to family members, human rights groups, or United Nations personnel, among others," HRW said.
"The UN and Congo's international partners should urgently demand that the government rein in its security forces."
Tshisekedi, 79, is challenging the outcome of the vote which the country's supreme court and the election commission said Kabila had won.
Since Sunday, the presidential guard has positioned tanks outside the stadium and throughout the capital. Police have regularly moved to break up gatherings of opposition groups.
London-based rights group Amnesty International earlier this week denounced what it said was a wave of political arrests, notably of opposition activists, since the elections.
The opposition leader plans to hold his "inauguration" ceremony at Kinshasa's Martyrs Stadium on Friday at 09:00 GMT, a move that could trigger more violent clashes in the vast nation.