March 13, 2013 / 5:06 PM / 7 years ago

U.N. report says Congo prisoners dying from hunger, torture

KINSHASA (Reuters) - More than 100 prisoners in Democratic Republic of Congo died in jail last year, some from torture, the United Nations said on Wednesday, calling on the government to halt the abuse.

Congo is one of the world’s poorest countries and prisoners are often crammed into cells with hundreds of other inmates, sleeping on bare concrete with little to eat.

A joint-study by the United Nations’ human rights office and its peacekeeping mission in Congo, published on Wednesday, found that at least 211 inmates had died in Congo’s prisons since 2010, including 101 last year alone.

Poor healthcare, malnutrition and overcrowding accounted for most of the deaths, but more than 10 percent died after torture or mistreatment by prison guards or security forces, the report said.

“Someone deprived of their liberty should never be allowed to die of hunger or ill-treatment. It is the responsibility of the state to keep prisoners alive and in good health,” Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said.

“The very serious and persistent problems surrounding detention conditions in the DRC need to be addressed without further delay,” she said, calling for donor countries to increase efforts to help reform Congo’s prisons system.

No one was immediately available to comment from the government. In recent months, authorities have suspended high-ranking prison officials suspected of corruption.

Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Robin Pomeroy

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