Human Rights Watch says security forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have killed more than three dozen people in the latest bout of protests against President Joseph Kabila that turned violent.
According to Ida Sawyer, the Africa researcher for the New York-based human rights group, the HRW has "credible reports" that at least 37 people lost their lives during two days of the violent protests.
Sawyer said at least 20 people died on Monday and 17 were killed overnight on Tuesday.
Interior Minister Evariste Boshab earlier said a total of 17 people including three policemen had died in the violence. He also referred to the protests as an "uprising."
However, other sources reported much higher figures. Close to 200 people are believed to have been arrested.
The fighting broke out in Kinshasa on Monday as thousands of opposition supporters marched against President Kabila and his bid to extend his term.
The protests came amid increasing local and international pressure on Kabila to step down when his mandate ends in December. Opposition parties claim that he will attempt to extend his term by pushing back the elections.
UN urges restraint amid violence
Meanwhile, the United Nations has called for restraint amid deadly clashes between security forces and protesters in the African country.
Spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday that the international body was "deeply worried" by the latest round of violence.
"We have received reports of excessive use of force by some elements of the security forces as well as reports that some demonstrators resorted to violence yesterday. We call on all sides to show restraint and we urge the authorities to ensure that existing national and international standards on the appropriate use of force are fully respected by all security personnel. We call for a credible and impartial investigation to bring those responsible of human rights violations and criminal acts to justice, and we stand ready to support such an inquiry," Colville said.
The UN official added that the violence underlined the urgent need for dialogue on the electoral process in the country.