A new report published by the international-watchdog Amnesty International says human-rights abuses are escalating in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The group says it fears harassment will increase further before presidential and national elections set to take place in 2011.
Amnesty International's report documents the experiences of eight human-rights defenders who it says have been arbitrarily detained, harassed, and subject to death threats.
Amnesty International Congo researcher Andrew Philip says the investigation has found human-rights abuses increased between 2009 and 2010, and he says he fears they may get worse.
"This, we are concerned, may be linked to the 2011 national and presidential elections, where the government seems intent on stifling any kind of independent criticism or monitoring of the human rights situation in the country," said Andrew Philip.
He says activists have increasingly been subject to death threats via text messages. He says these are anonymous and cannot be attributed to the government, but he says other human-rights abuses appear to originate from the DRC central government in Kinshasa.
"Human-rights defenders have been summoned to meetings with the local intelligence service, where they have been told quite clearly that a message has been given by Kinshasa that they should be careful about their activities, that they should not disturb the public order," he said. "So in some instances it is clearly directed, we believe, from the central level."
But Congo Minister for Human Rights Upio Kakura Wapol says rights are respected in Congo.
He says Amnesty International's report is exaggerated and does not recognize that respect for human rights is making real progress.
And he says it is important to remember that Congo is a country at war, and this is the real cause for human-rights violations.
Congo has yet to recover from a five-year conflict that ended with a peace deal in 2003. According to the United Nations, various militia groups as well as government soldiers continue to attack civilians, including widespread rape and sexual violence.
Amnesty International also says it receives regular reports of torture and ill-treatment taking place in the detention facilities of Congo's National Intelligence Agency.