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Briefing notes in Burundi and Syria

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani on behalf of Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Subject: (1) Burundi, (2) Syria

(1) Burundi

We are concerned about the increasing level of violence in Burundi, the latest outburst being the massacre in Gatumba last week, just west of the capital, Bujumbura. Armed men killed at least 36 people in a popular bar on 18 September 2011. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. This massacre occurred in a context of increased tension marked by a series of extrajudicial killings that appeared to be mainly aimed at activists of the opposition National Liberation Front.

The Government of Burundi immediately condemned the Gatumba killings and set up a Commission of inquiry to clarify the circumstances of this event and bring the perpetrators to justice. Given that other commissions of inquiry set up to investigate past killings have so far yielded no prosecutions, we encourage the Government to ensure prompt and impartial investigations of all human rights violations, in line with international human rights standards, and to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. We also encourage the Government to undertake efforts to engage in a national dialogue with all parties to avoid a further escalation of tension and violence.

We urge all parties to refrain from reprisal attacks. The fight against past impunity is in this context essential.

(2) Syria

We are extremely alarmed by ongoing reports of the increasingly brutal crackdown by Syrian authorities against protestors in Syria. Prominent human rights defenders, inside and outside the country, are reported to have been targeted. We are also concerned by reports of the targeting and attacking of families and sympathizers of the protestors by security forces. In one recent appalling case, the mutilated body of Zeinab al-Hosni, an 18-year-old woman from Homs who had been tortured and died in custody was discovered by her family on 13 September. We have received unconfirmed reports that she had been abducted by members of the security forces on 27 July, apparently to pressure her activist brother to turn himself in.

We once again urge the Syrian authorities to end their brutal crackdown against peaceful demonstrators, end their acts of reprisal against activists and their families, and allow for an independent and impartial investigation of the situation in Syria. As the Deputy High Commissioner stated on Monday, it is critical that the Security Council consider referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 /rshamdasani@ohchr.org).

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