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Burundi: UN expert warns on human rights violations in run-up to presidential elections

GENEVA (25 June 2010) – On the eve of the presidential elections in Burundi, the UN Independent Expert Akich Okola called for “a constructive dialogue between the Government and all political parties to ensure that the elections are held peacefully and democratically.”

“I noted with concern increasing reports of human rights violations and security concerns since my last visit*, during the local elections of 24 May 2010, with a number of arbitrary arrests, detention and harassment of opposition politicians and their supporters. I further note that the security situation has deteriorated with grenades attacks in the country, which have resulted in loss of life and destruction of property,” said the Independent Expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor the situation of human rights in Burundi.

“I am concerned that this situation may lead to further violence and human rights violations.” Mr. Okola warned. Since May 2010, Burundi has embarked in general elections, the second since the Arusha Peace Accords of 2000, with Presidential elections scheduled for 28 June.

“I regret the fact that, as announced earlier during my last mission to Burundi, political parties decided to boycott Presidential and other elections in protest to perceived irregularities during the local elections of 24 May 2010,” the human rights expert reiterated.

The UN Independent Expert appealed to political parties to continue participating in the electoral process, particularly the legislative elections of 23 July 2010. “Boycotting them will impede the democratic process which was launched with the successful elections of 2005 and may increase the risk of violence and insecurity in the country,” he stressed.

Mr. Okola appealed to the International Community to urgently intercede in order to prevent these developments from derailing the peace process in which they have invested so much.

“I congratulate my successor, Mr. Fatsah Ouguergouz and wish him good luck and success in discharging his mandate,” said Mr. Okola, whose six-year tenure as Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi ends in July 2010.

(*) See the Independent Expert’s statement on his last mission to Burundi, 28 May 2010: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10104&LangID=E

OHCHR Country Page – Burundi: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/BIIndex.aspx