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UN 'lied' in report on Bas-Congo killings - govt

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KINSHASA, 18 June 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has dismissed as "mendacious" a UN report that accused police of killing 100 civilians in Bas-Congo province.

On 13 June, the UN mission in DRC, MONUC, released a report following an investigation into the actions of a contingent of Kinshasa-based police against members of the Bundu dia Kongo sect in several areas of Bas-Congo. The report said at least 100 people, most of them sect members, had been killed on 28 February.

"It is a mendacious report," government spokesman Emile Bongeli told IRIN on 17 June.

"While we congratulate MONUC for taking the trouble to shed light on the situation in Congo, we sadly deplore the overly partial, overly tendentious nature of this report and the casualness of its authors who relied on conditional premises to arrive at conclusions that could seriously undermine the credibility the DRC is painfully and very patiently trying to restore," he added.

"According to government figures, there were 27 gunshot fatalities and these are identified individuals, unlike the 100 imaginary people whom MONUC cannot identify," added Bongeli.

"They made their report as if they simply wanted to condemn the government. They made no mention of the troubles sown by this sect, which they placed on the same footing as the loyal forces," he added, in reference to the police.

When contacted, MONUC declined to comment on the government's reaction.

The killings in Bas-Congo came in the wake of skirmishes between police and
Bundu dia Kongo members. The sect contests the results of a general election held in 2006, and its members have occasionally lowered the national flag on public buildings and replaced it with their own. The sect has set up its own courts and meted out corporal punishment on those convicted.

The MONUC report also held the police responsible for the destruction of more than 200 buildings, including the houses of sect members, and also those of people who had no affiliation with the group.

It also said that more than 150 sect members had been arrested and many of them tortured or subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.

Many sect members have been tried and convicted. Four received death sentences while others were given jail terms ranging from two months to 20 years.

The MONUC report recommended that the judicial authorities in DRC open their own investigation into the events in Bas-Congo and that those guilty of serious abuses be brought to trial.

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