Congo ‘condones’ torture and rape of activists, says NGO report


Congo DRC is condoning the torture of political and human rights activists, including the use of gang rape, beatings and electric shock treatment on detained men and women, a campaign group said Monday.

The UK-based Freedom from Torture group, which helps rehabilitate torture survivors, accused the DRC authorities of routinely detaining activists in inhumane conditions, holding them without charge and torturing them.

“Most of those who are detained, both men and women are raped, on multiple occasions and by multiple perpetrators. The rapes take place in a context of absolute impunity.”

The report is based on 74 medical and legal files of Congolese nationals over the last five years who fled to Britain after  having been allegedly detained and tortured.

65 of the cases, men and women, said they were sexually tortured and most of them raped at least once.

More than half of those who were raped underwent episodes of gang rape, the report said, resulting in physical and psychological injury.

Some of the men and women succumbed beatings, burning with heated metal or cigarettes, positional torture, sharp force trauma such as cutting, stabbing or biting, being forced to stare at the Sun, partial asphyxiation and electric shocks were also among the methods of torture reported.

“Different branches of state security such as the police, military and intelligence agencies are known to commit torture and other violate human rights from the point of arrest, and at both official and unofficial detention sites,” the report said.

The government, rather than stopping the torture is seen to be condoning it. Human Rights Minister Marie-Ange Mushobekwa said she was not “aware” of the report and was not able to give immediate responses concerning the report.

In a another development, 17 pro-democracy campaigners were arrested in the DRC capital of Kinshasa last Thursday and have gone on hunger strike, their organisation said on Monday.

“They begun their hunger strike on Saturday and refuse every food given to them, saying they only needed freedom,” said Mephy Pongo, of the Citizens’ Vigilance Movement, known by its initials in French as Vici.

Of the three women in the group, one was suffering intense abdominal and back pains after a police officer trampled on her during her arrest, Pongo said.

Twenty-one candidates are expected to stand in the DRC’s presidential elections on December 23.

The ballot is being closely watched by Western governments as the country will make its first peaceful transition of power since the end of Belgian colonial rule in 1960.

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