Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has blocked a human rights researcher from continuing to work in the country, in what her rights organization says is the "latest attempt to curtail human rights reporting during a period of increased government repression" there.

Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that the DRC government has revoked the work permit of Ida Sawyer, a senior researcher, after renewing her three-year work permit in May 2016. Sawyer has worked in the DRC since 2008.

Human Rights Watch says immigration authorities on July 3 "unexpectedly and without explanation" annulled her new permit as Sawyer passed through Kinshasa's main airport following a trip abroad.

The group says Sawyer filed a new request for a work permit, but it was denied on Monday and she was instructed to leave the country within 48 hours.

The rights group said no reason was given for the denial of a new permit, and it says the researcher, who examines human rights abuses, will comply with the instructions to leave.

Human Rights Watch said the Congolese government has, since January 2015, imposed a "brutal crackdown" on those who have spoken out or opposed attempts to extend the authority of President Joseph Kabila beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which ends December 19.

Senior government officials say elections cannot be held before the end of the year because of technical, logistical and financial constraints.


Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says government security forces have "arbitrarily arrested scores of opposition leaders and activists, fired on peaceful protesters, banned opposition demonstrations, shut down media outlets, accused peaceful pro-democracy youth activists of plotting terrorist acts, and prevented opposition leaders from moving freely around the country."

Supportes of Congo opposition leader Etienne Tshis
FILE - Supportes of Congo opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, rear, hold up a cross that symbolizes no third term for Congo President Joseph Kabila, during a political rally in Kinshasa, Congo, July 31, 2016.

The group says at least 14 activists and political opponents remain in prison on questionable charges. It is calling on the DRC government to "credibly and impartially investigate alleged government abuses and hold those responsible to account."

In October 2014, the DRC government expelled United Nations official Scott Campbell after his group published a report on summary executions and enforced disappearances.

Jason Stearns, the director of the Congo Research Group, was forced to leave in April 2016 after his group published a report about massacres in eastern Congo.

In July, the international organization Global Witness was forced by government authorities to recall two researchers who were investigating logging practices in the DRC.