Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo used excessive force, including teargas and live ammunition, against peaceful protesters at Catholic churches in the capital, Kinshasa, and other cities on December 31, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. When confronted by the heavily armed police and soldiers, some protesters, dressed in white, sang hymns or knelt on the ground. At least eight people were killed and dozens injured, including at least 27 with gunshot wounds, but the actual number killed and wounded may be much higher.

The shooting, beating, and arbitrary arrests of peaceful churchgoers by Congolese security forces violated the rights to freedom of worship, expression, and peaceful assembly, Human Rights Watch said. Those responsible for the unlawful use of deadly force should be prosecuted. With more protests planned, the authorities should lift the ban on demonstrations and allow people to worship without interference.