Congolese security forces shot and killed dozens of protesters, and wounded scores more, gathering in the city of Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, on August 30, 2023. The security forces also arrested several dozen people. A mystic religious sect called Natural Judaic and Messianic Faith Towards the Nations had planned the protest to call on the United Nations peacekeeping mission and the East African Community regional force to leave the country. The authorities had banned the demonstration.
Human Rights Watch authenticated two videos showing Congolese soldiers from an elite unit throwing bodies onto the back of a truck. There are credible reports that most of the bodies were being kept in a morgue at a military hospital, to which the deceased’s family members are not allowed access. In addition to the casualties among the demonstrators, one police officer was stoned to death, according to the security forces.
“Congolese military forces appear to have fired into a crowd to prevent a demonstration, an extremely callous as well as unlawful way to enforce a ban,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “For two years, the military authorities have used the ‘state of siege’ – martial law – in North Kivu province to brutally crack down on fundamental liberties.”
The authorities should immediately grant family members access to the victims, Human Rights Watch said. Senior military officials who ordered the use of unlawful lethal force should be suspended, investigated, and held accountable in fair and public trials.