Protests in Kinshasa, DRC
Congolese opposition supporters press President Joseph Kabila to step down in the DRC capital, Kinshasa, on 19 September Reuters/Kenny Katombe

Human rights groups operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the African Association for the Defence of Human Rights (ASADHO) and the Bill Clinton Foundation for Peace (FBCP), have condemned threats made by the National Prosecutor following deadly violence.

Two days of protests held on 19 and 20 September to stop President Joseph Kabila from extending his presidency reportedly left at least 32 people dead, including four police officials. But according to Human Rights Watch, the death toll stands at 43, of which six are police officers.

Following the deadly clashes between demonstrators and security forces, National Prosecutor Flory Kabange Numbi announced on 22 September that he had instructed the police to hunt down the organisers of the demonstrations to hold them accountable for their actions. Kabange Numbi threatened to punish those he said were responsible for the violence.

"We are no longer in a warning stage... we will punish the infractions committed," he said "The Congolese national police are actively seeking out the authors of these grave acts of plunder."

Kabila, whose government blamed the unrest and deadly clashes on the opposition, in a statement on 21 September promised "the perpetrators of these deplorable acts will fully meet the judiciary power".

Prevent 'manipulation of the Congolese law'

Following investigations in the clashes, the ASADHO and FBCP in a joint statement claimed that "at least 100 people were killed", the majority of whom were civilians attending protests that "the Congolese National Police and Republican Guard violently and bloodily suppressed".

According to sources, the rights groups claimed that "several people including policemen, officers of the civilian and Republican Guard have been at the core of killings, looting, burning and plundering of privately-owned or collectively-owned property".

The organisations acknowledged it is difficult to identify "who is the perpetrator of all these human right violations" because of the confusion provoked by those wishing to disperse demonstrators. However, they insisted it was also "unjust" to accuse the organisers of demonstrations of carrying out the violations.

After calling on the Congolese authorities to prevent the "manipulation of the Congolese law", the ASADHO and FBCP urged the government to open an independent probe to identify and prosecute all those responsible or implicated in the rights violations. The organisations also demanded that Kabange Numbi "refrained from all acts and practices of discrimination" based on social, professional or political background.

Opposition leader Moise Katumbi last week called for the imposition of targeted sanctions against security officials responsible for the deaths of dozens of protesters.