Kinshasa - Police in the Democratic Republic of Congo's capital have conducted dozens of extra judicial killings in a crackdown against organised crime gangs, Human Rights Watch alleges.
The government called the claims exaggerated and pointed to convictions of police involved in the sweep.
In a report released on Tuesday, the rights group said the police committed abuses in "Operation Likofi," a three-month drive launched in November last year to quash an upsurge in armed robbery and other crimes by small gangs, known as kuluna.
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The report expands on similar allegations from a UN human rights office last month.
Police killed at least 51 young men and teenage boys when they were unarmed, outside their homes, or in open markets, for maximum intimidation effect, said the report. Five were aged from 14 to 17, and nearly three dozen more people disappeared, it said.
Human Rights Watch urged international donors and the United Nations to press Congo to arrest and prosecute those responsible. It said Gen Celestin Kanyama, said to be the commander of the operation, should be suspended pending a judicial probe of crimes associated with the campaign.
The report is "exaggerated," said government spokesperson Lambert Mende Omalanga. He dismissed the rights group's call for the suspension of the general.
Last week Interior Minister Richard Muyej insisted about 30 police officers had been convicted for their behaviour during the sweep — including five for murder and manslaughter and two for arbitrary kidnapping or detention.