Burundi | UN Human Rights Council should continue investigating abuses

We all long for justice: no one should enjoy impunity, in particular for the most atrocious crimes. The UN Commission of Inquiry (CoI) is needed to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed in Burundi at least since 2015, and ultimately to ensure justice for victims.

Ahead of the 39th session of the UN Human Rights Council (“HRC” or “the Council”), ISHR joined over 30 organisations in urging States to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the CoI on Burundi, that also ensures continuity for the work of the CoI through continued adequate resourcing of its secretariat, including its crucial investigative and evidence-gathering work.

The organisations stressed that the renewal of the CoI’s mandate is critically important to improve the human rights situation in Burundi and will also allow the Council to ensure the continued documentation of human rights violations and abuses ahead of the upcoming elections of 2020, through testimonies of victims, witnesses, human rights defenders, and other actors operating in and outside of the country; to ensure ongoing public reporting and debates on the situation; and to enable the CoI to continue to highlight under-addressed aspects of the crisis such as violations of economic, social and cultural rights.

At the Council’s 36th session (September 2017), the CoI informed the HRC that there were “reasonable grounds to believe that serious human rights violations and abuses have been committed in Burundi since 2015,” and that some of the violations may constitute “crimes against humanity.” At the 37th and 38th sessions of the Council (March and June-July 2018), the CoI described a political, security, econ­omic, social and human rights situation that has not improved since September 2016. In March 2018, the Com­mission’s Chairperson, Mr. Doudou Diène, stressed that the situation in the country con­tinued to deserve the Council’s “utmost attention.” In October 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) autho­rised an investigation into crimes committed in Burundi since April 2015. A pre­liminary exam­ination of the situation had been opened in April 2016.

Since it became a member of the Council, on 1st January 2016, Burundi has delivered multiple state­ments that have made clear its refusal to cooperate with human rights monitoring and investigation bodies and mechanisms. The Government has repeatedly launched attacks, which have sometimes des­cen­ded to a personal level, against the High Commissioner, UN officials, and inde­pendent experts. With no basis or evidence, it has publicly questioned the independence, competence, professionalism, inte­grity and legitimacy of High Commissioner Zeid and his Office, and has threatened, stigmatised, and exer­cised reprisals against human rights defenders and civil society organisations. Burundians who have sought protection outside of Burundi have been subjected to harassment and persecution, including by members of the National Intelligence Service (SNR) and Imbonerakure ( the ruling party’s youth league). 

ISHR has repeatedly called for the suspension of Burundi from the Council for its clear violations of the membership criteria defined by the General Assembly resolution 60/251. 

Renewing the mandate of the CoI would ensure that human rights violations continue to be documented and will maintain public scrutiny of the ongoing violations. 

Read the full letter here

Contact: Adelaide Etong <[email protected]>

Photo: Commons Wikipedia

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