Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday accused security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo of carrying out forced disappearances and killings of 34 young men and boys between May and September 2018. There are reports of 11 additional cases, but HRW has not yet been able to verify those reports.
The victims, as young as 15, were targeted as being gang members, known as kulunas, in the capital of Congo, Kinshasa. The victims were often taken by plain clothes police officers without warrants. Most of the victims were strangled. The use of strangulation is believed to be done in order to point responsibility for the killings away from the police.
The killings were part of an anti-crime campaign called Operation Likofi IV. The kuluna members targeted are believed to have been involved in mobilizing opposition-led demonstrations or refused to be recruited by the ruling party or security agencies. One of the purposes of the campaign is believed to be deterring election protests.
Kinshasa police commissioner General Kasongo has denied the existence of the operation. Vice prime minister and interior and security minister Henri Mova also called the allegations “absurd.”
HRW called for the suspension of any official credibly implicated in the operation. HRW also called on the United States and the European Union to consider sanctions and travel bans on those who have been credibly implicated.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has faced many allegations of human rights violations in recent years. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was accused of human rights violations by then UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in March 2017 over killings and excessive force used in response to mass protests. Seven army officials were arrested in March 2017 due to their participation in a massacre of unarmed civilians in February 2017. The UN Human Rights Office expressed concern in February 2017 over the reported killing of 101 people by Congolese soldiers.