October 17, 2016 - 2:05 PM
LUXEMBOURG - The European Union stepped up pressure on the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday to end violence in the country, saying it is ready to impose sanctions to end the unrest in the east of the vast nation and to push for elections next year.
The 28 EU foreign ministers said in a statement the bloc "will use all the means at its disposal, including individual restrictive measures" against those who commit violence and human rights abuses.
Dozens of people died in Kinshasa in September after security forces clashed with anti-government demonstrators opposed to delaying long-anticipated elections. Fighting in the east is also worry.
Separately, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said she has sent a team to Congo to urge representatives of political parties to show restraint amid the crisis.
Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said the team will call on politicians and others to ensure that they and their supporters "refrain ... from committing any act of criminal violence against individuals and property, and take the necessary measures to prevent the commission of such acts."
Bensouda said her prosecutors are closely monitoring the situation in Congo and that anyone who "commits, orders, incites, encourages, or contributes in any other way to the commission of crimes" could be held liable.
The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort that only steps in if a country where crimes are committed is unable or unwilling to prosecute.
Congo's electoral commission says a national election, originally scheduled for Nov. 27, will likely take place at the end of 2018. The EU ministers said the election must happen as soon as possible next year.
Meanwhile, the constitutional court in Congo ruled late Monday that the electoral commission can postpone the November elections to be sure that voter registration lists are updated.
constitutional Court President Benoit Lwamba Bindu said Monday that the court recognizes there are technical problems and has authorized a reasonable delay. It said the commission must publish a new electoral calendar.
Opposition leaders say such delays are meant to keep President Joseph Kabila in power after his mandate ends in December.
Associated Press writer Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands and Saleh Mwanamilongo in Kinshasa, Congo contributed to this report.
News from © The Associated Press, 2016