GENEVA (15 May 2015) – The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday said there is a real risk of Burundi descending into further chaos, and called upon the authorities to ensure that the instigators of the failed coup are not harmed and that there are no reprisals against their perceived supporters, journalists, human rights defenders and the many ordinary civilians who have been protesting against the Government.
“I am deeply worried by the extremely tense situation in Burundi. We are receiving alarming messages from human rights defenders and journalists fearing for their safety. I urge the Burundian authorities to ensure their protection and to guarantee that there will be no unlawful reprisals following Wednesday’s failed coup,” Zeid said.
“I also urge all armed forces and non-state actors to refrain from taking violent actions and to pay special attention to the protection of civilians in this highly volatile context,” he added.
“In the light of calls made by the civil society to restart the demonstrations in Bujumbura, I urge the Burundian authorities to ensure that security forces comply fully with the country’s international human rights obligations and international standards on policing demonstrations, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.”
The High Commissioner said he was deeply concerned by reports of attacks on both private and state media over the past two days. “I call for a re-opening of all media outlets and respect for the independence of journalists,” he said.
“There is also an urgent need to ensure the safety of human rights defenders, some of whom have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives. My office was contacted earlier today by one of Burundi’s most prominent human rights defenders, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, who fled his home after receiving death threats,” Zeid said.
“Those who incite or engage in acts of mass violence should be aware that they are liable to be prosecuted by competent judicial bodies, as reflected in the recent statement by the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court,” the High Commissioner warned.
Zeid also voiced concerns that the intimidation of civilians, including by the armed militia attached to the youth movement known as the Imbonerakure, could result in an even greater humanitarian crisis. More than 105,000 refugees have now fled to neighbouring countries, with reports of rapidly deteriorating sanitary conditions in some locations where large numbers of refugees have gathered, such as Kagunga in Tanzania.
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