United Nations Urges Congo to Release Political Prisoners

The United Nations asked the Democratic Republic of Congo to release prisoners whom it says have been unlawfully detained, in a move that could encourage opposition leaders to join talks to avoid a political crisis.

“I will submit a list of those detained persons we believe should be released immediately,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said in a statement handed to reporters Thursday in the capital, Kinshasa. The detainees should be transferred from the national intelligence agency’s holding cells to ordinary detention centers, where civilian magistrates will make a decision on their release, according to Zeid.

The UN, the European Union and the U.S. have all criticized the increasing repression of political activity in Congo this year, including the unlawful detention of citizens. The country is heading toward presidential elections that are due in November but likely to be delayed because the electoral commission says it won’t be ready.

A call by President Joseph Kabila to hold talks in November was largely dismissed by the opposition as a strategy to delay the vote. Earlier this month, the UN said that the release of political prisoners was one of the conditions posed by opposition leaders, including Etienne Tshisekedi and Moise Katumbi, to join the talks.

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