DRC: Three months after UN peacekeeping forces’ crackdown on protests, families still searching for justice

Three months after UN peacekeeping forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) violently cracked down on protesters, in which 36 people were killed and 170 others injured, victims’ families are still searching for justice, Amnesty International said today.

Five UN staff members were among those killed after violent demonstrations erupted in several cities in the east of the DRC from July 25-27. The protesters had been calling for the UN Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to immediately withdraw from the country. They also accused MONUSCO, which has been in the DRC since 1999, of failing to dismantle armed groups and protect civilians amid the resurgence of M23, an armed rebel group in North Kivu.

“In July this year, the UN said it would work together with the DRC authorities on an investigation into the deaths of demonstrators. We are still waiting for the results. Victims’ families deserve to know the truth, including the role played by MONUSCO peacekeepers. The UN must be transparent about the crackdown and support the provision of access to justice and effective remedies for victims and their families,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.

Victims’ families told Amnesty International that apart from receiving USD $2000 to cover funerals fees, they have received no further information or compensation from the government or the United Nations.

‘I want to know who killed my brother’

Witnesses to the brutal crackdown have alleged that UN forces resorted to excessive use of force against demonstrators, including live ammunition.

The brother of one victim told Amnesty International: “I want to know who killed my brother, and why. Even if he would have been part of the protests, [UN peacekeepers] are expected to know how to deal with unarmed protesters without causing unnecessary casualties. They have tear gas and other tools they could have used to disperse the people, instead of shooting them in the head.”

Kassim Diagne, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary General to the DRC, has denied allegations that UN Peacekeepers opened fire on protesters, yet committed to investigating the deaths with DRC officials to determine those suspected to be responsible.

Anyone suspected to be responsible for the killings of demonstrators and United Nations staff must face justice.

Muleya Mwananyanda