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Act to protect civilians, UN experts urge Burundi Government

GENEVA (29 November 2016 ) – The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has called on the Government of Burundi to take prompt and effective action to protect civilians, including allowing the immediate admission of a UN police contingent* to monitor the security and human rights situation in the country.

The fact that armed militia are openly intimidating people demonstrates, “the unwillingness or the inability of the Government to protect civilians,” the Committee wrote in a decision issued under its early warning and urgent action procedure. CERD also expressed deep concern regarding a Civil Service questionnaire issued on 8 November that asks public servants to state their ethnicity. 

“Such a survey, given Burundi’s history of virulent ethnic conflict, could spread fear and further mistrust among the population, and could be hugely dangerous if misused,” said CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley.

Acting under its early warning procedure, CERD also voiced deep concern at reports of killings, summary executions, disappearances and torture; the frequent use of hate speech by Government officials; and the growing number of Burundians fleeing the country.

The Committee deplored Burundi’s increased lack of co-operation with the international community and called on the Government to re-engage with the UN Human Rights Office. CERD also urged the Government to abide by Burundi’s human rights obligations, including those arising from the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“CERD established its early warning procedure in response to the conflicts of the early 1990s, including in the Great Lakes region, as a way of preventing  problems or crises from escalating into conflicts and above all to prevent the wounds of old conflicts from re-opening,” said Ms. Crickley. “That is why we expressed alarm in August this year and this is why we are raising our voice again.

“Burundi is at a dangerous junction. We therefore call on the Government to step back from any actions that risk stoking ethnic conflict and that could even be a precursor to mass atrocities,” said Ms. Crickley.  

ENDS

CERD early warning and urgent action decision 28 November 2016: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents/BDI/INT_CERD_EWU_BDI_8118_E.pdf

*Security Council Resolution 2303 (29 July 2016): http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=S/RES/2303(2016)

** Burundi has announced it intends to withdraw from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; it rejected the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi and declared the investigation’s three experts persona non grata; it rejected cooperation with the Commission of Inquiry established by the Human Rights Council; it refused to cooperate with the Committee against Torture; and has suspended cooperation with the UN Human Rights Office.

For more information and media requests, please contact:  Liz Throssell ethrossell@ohchr.org / 41 22 917 9466 / 41 79 752 0488

Burundi homepage: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/BIIndex.aspx

Background

The 18 members of CERD are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties. The Committee’s concluding observations are an independent assessment of States’ compliance with their human rights obligations under the treaty. More information on the Committee: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cerd/pages/cerdindex.aspx

CERD Early warning and urgent action procedure: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CERD/Pages/EarlyWarningProcedure.aspx

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