The European Union is set next week to prolong sanctions against Congolese President Joseph Kabila's chosen successor just two weeks before a historic election in the resource-rich Central African country.
EU officials confirmed Friday that travel bans and asset freezes will be renewed against DRC's ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary and 15 other people.
The move is expected to occur without debate at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday.
Shadary was sanctioned by the EU last year for obstructing DRC's electoral process and a crackdown against protesters angry over the long-delayed vote.
The EU says he was "involved in planning, directing, or committing acts that constitute serious human rights violations."
The election is scheduled for December 23. It could be Congo's first peaceful, democratic transfer of power. The opposition fears that Kabila, who has ruled since 2001, will assert power behind the scenes if Shadary wins.
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Separately, a senior EU official said that "the fundamental reasons for the measures have not changed."
The senior official, whose job does not permit him to speak publicly, said the EU has high expectations of the election.
"We like elections if they are well carried out," the official told reporters, but he noted: "That's a very big 'if' in the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Congo's foreign minister last week raised the sanctions issue with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. He told reporters he had asked that the "illegal" sanctions be lifted on Shadary ahead of the election, or at least be suspended for a "probationary period" as a compromise.
But Human Rights Watch also wrote to Mogherini last week, appealing to her to ensure that the sanctions are renewed and even expanded.
"Less than one month before the scheduled election, the repression continues, those responsible for past abuses have not been held to account, and the enabling environment for credible elections does not exist," the rights group wrote.