UN rights chief blasts Kinshasa for expelling top envoy

High Commissioner of the United Nations for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein attends a press conference on October 16, 2014 in Geneva (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini) (AFP/File)

Geneva (AFP) - The UN rights chief on Sunday condemned Kinshasa for expelling his top envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and accused the authorities of intimidating other members of his staff.

"Not only has my highly experienced and respected representative in DRC, Scott Campbell, been told to leave, but two other staff working in his team have been seriously threatened in recent days," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

"This is unacceptable," he said, demanding an investigation into the threats.

"With these acts of intimidation and reprisal, the Congolese authorities risk setting back years of strenuous efforts by UN human rights staff and some sectors of the Congolese authorities to assist victims of human rights violations and strengthen the rule of law," he warned.

Campbell, who headed the UN Human Rights office in the country, was declared persona non grata on Thursday, a day after the publication of a damning report on a police crackdown on youth gangs.

"The fact that their work, mandated by the Security Council, has led to these acts of reprisal is a very disturbing development indeed," said the UN rights chief.

The report, published jointly by the UN mission in the country, MONUSCO, and Zeid's office, said at least nine people had been summarily executed and 32 went missing during the police operation in Kinshasa between last November and February.

Bodies had been dumped in a river or buried in mass graves, according to the report, which held the Congolese interior ministry responsible.

MONUSCO head Martin Kobler had urged Kinshasa to reconsider its decision, stressing that he had "full confidence and trust in Scott Campbell and the work undertaken by his whole team."

Zeid said he joined "wholeheartedly with Mr. Kobler in supporting (the report's) conclusions and recommendations."

"The government of the DRC should be investigating its deeply disturbing findings and bringing alleged perpetrators to justice rather than seeking to punish the leader of the team that researched and produced the report," he said.