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DRC: UN demands 'independent' probe after deadly crackdown on anti-MONUSCO protest

Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperso, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights   -  
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-/AFP or licensors

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The United Nations on Friday demanded an "independent" probe after dozens of people were killed in a crackdown on an anti-UN protest in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

"There needs to be an investigation... and the perpetrators need to be brought to justice," UN rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.

The UN is in touch with the DRC authorities to ensure a probe they have opened "is independent, effective, and that measures are put in place to ensure that future demonstrations are policed in line with international human rights standards," she said.

Soldiers on Wednesday stopped a religious sect from holding a demonstration against UN peacekeepers in Goma.

According to an assessment by the rights office, at least 43 people were killed, including a policeman, and 56 injured, Shamdasani said, adding that the toll may be higher.

An internal army document consulted by AFP on Thursday, and verified by security officials, gave a death toll of 48, in addition to the slain policeman, and 75 people wounded.

The document also said soldiers arrested 168 people, including the leader of the sect, a Christian-animist group named the "Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith Towards the Nations."

Shamdasani said at least 222 people were reportedly arrested, including women and children, and warned "the risk of human rights violations in such a charged context is high".

Eastern DRC has been ravaged by militia violence for three decades, a legacy of regional wars that flared in the 1990s and 2000s.

The UN peacekeeping mission there is one of the largest and costliest in the world, with an annual budget of about $1 billion.

But the force, known by its initials as MONUSCO, is often criticised locally, with many people saying it is too passive about preventing conflict.

Last year, dozens were killed in anti-UN protests, including four peacekeepers.

The latest violence coincides with a debate over when the force should leave the country.

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