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REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Air strikes hit residential areas including schools

21 Apr 2016
[International Secretariat]
Region: REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Topic:

Air strikes on residential areas in the south eastern Pool region of Congo that have reportedly resulted in deaths, casualties and the destruction of properties, including churches, schools and medical facilities represent an unlawful use of lethal force by the security forces, Amnesty International said today.

They are a clear violation of the country’s international human rights obligations and should be subject to a thorough, independent and impartial investigation. Eyewitnesses told the organisation that on 5 April, helicopters dropped at least 30 bombs on residential areas where the target was a house which used to be the residence of leader of the “Ninjas” armed group. The government blamed the “Ninjas” for the 4 April violence in the capital Brazzaville. An eyewitness told Amnesty International that she saw at least 30 dead bodies.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that localities affected by the air strikes are now deserted. The population have either fled to the bush or to other towns.

Background

Amnesty International interviewed a dozen eye witnesses, local activists and journalists by phone and corroborated their statements by analysing information in the media.

Gunfire broke out in the streets of Brazzaville on Monday 4 April 2016. Young people raised barricades in the southern neighbourhood of Makelekele calling for President Denis Sassou Nguesso to step down.

One building belonging to a local mayor’s office and two police stations were set ablaze and armed men attacked an army barracks.  The “Ninjas” were blamed by government for the violence which came weeks after President Sassou Nguesso won the 20 March Presidential elections that opposition claims were marred by fraud and ballot irregularities. Media reported that 17 people were killed and several more injured between 5th and 10th April during violence in the capital.

Since the results of the elections were rejected by part of the opposition, the Congolese authorities have conducted a series of arrests against leading opposition figures accusing them of compromising national security.

Amnesty International and local human rights organisations have called on authorities to release political opponents detained for peaceful criticism of the recent elections, put an end to arbitrary arrests and detentions, and avoid any repression of peaceful protests.

In an attempt last February to muzzle independent human rights monitoring, Republic of Congo refused entry and sent back to Dakar an Amnesty International researcher despite having a valid visa, invitation letter and confirmations of meetings with authorities including the Minister of Defence and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

18 April 2016
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE

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