Back


Human Rights Council opens Special session on preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi

Back

17 December 2015

Human Rights Council
17 December 2015

The Human Rights Council this morning opened a Special Session on preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi.

The Special Session was convened at the request of the United States, and called for by 18 other Member States of the Council and 29 Observer States, said Ambassador Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Burundi was at a bursting point and on the brink of a civil war, with violence and intimidation catapulting the country back to its deeply troubled, dark, and horrendously violent past.  The time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around edges was over; the situation demanded a robust, decisive response from the international community.  The primary responsibility for this lay with the State authorities, and there were many concrete actions they could immediately take to defuse the situation.  Those responsible for serious violations and abuses of human rights must be brought to book without delay, stressed the High Commissioner. 

Adama Dieng, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, warned that the country appeared to be on the verge of a descent into violence that could escalate into atrocity crimes.  Grave human rights violations were occurring daily with total impunity, while assassinations of high-profile individuals were clear warning signs that should alert all to the risk of atrocity crimes.  Mr. Dieng expressed concern by the manipulation of ethnicity by Burundian leaders on both sides and the use of language similar to that used before and during the Rwandan genocide.

Michael Addo, Special Rapporteur on the rights of internally displaced persons and Chair of the Coordinating Committee of the Special Procedures, expressed deep concern at the appalling deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi.  The persistence of the dire situation in Burundi was unacceptable, especially for a country that had just been elected to the Human Rights Council.  The Council had a unique opportunity to address the highly volatile situation in Burundi, which required a resolute and immediate response based on an impartial assessment of human rights violations on the ground, irrespective of the identity or affiliation of the victim or the perpetrator. 

Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, reiterated deep concern about the situation in Burundi and strongly condemned all acts of violence, violations of human rights, and statements that inflamed the situation.  Only inclusive dialogue involving all Burundian stakeholders would enable Burundi to overcome the serious challenges and prevent the situation from totally undermining the gains made since the signing of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. 

Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, said that since June, during the Human Rights Council regular session, Burundi had been calling for the responsibility of the international community regarding the crisis.  Burundi denounced the statements of some foreign public figures, which deliberately masked realities on the ground in order to influence the world, with the aim to support the radical opposition, which in turn attacked the democratically elected institutions in order to install a transitional Government and thus occupy leading positions without having been given legitimacy by the people of Burundi.  Burundi was astonished that attacks qualified as terrorism in other countries were timidly denounced by part of the international community.  The quasi-silence could be interpreted as support for the radical opposition and criminal armed groups, which could incite new attempts for destabilisation.  

Speakers in the discussion said they were very concerned about the deterioration of the human rights and security situation in Burundi and strongly condemned the violence and grave human rights violations.  Burundi could choose to take the path of inclusive dialogue leading to sustainable political dialogue, or take the path of continued intransigency and a slow descent towards civil war.  The Government of Burundi was instrumental in creating the current crisis, as its refusal to engage with its opponents had led Burundi to the brink of disaster.  They reminded the Government of its primary responsibility to protect its population from human rights violations and acts of violence. 

One speaker called for the rejection of the Human Rights Council’s repeated initiatives without consulting the concerned countries beforehand.  This kind of action by the Human Rights Council did not meet human rights aims, undermined the credibility and objectivity of the Human Rights Council and was counter-productive. Another speaker said that any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a country under the pretext of human rights should not be justified.  Politicization, selectivity, and double standards in the field of human rights should be put to an end immediately.

The following delegations took floor in the discussion: Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union, France, United States, Japan, Algeria, Nigeria, Gabon, China, Estonia, Germany, Montenegro, Argentina, Republic of Korea, Ireland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Viet Nam, Mexico, Ghana, Bolivia, Uruguay, Holy See, Angola, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, Austria, Panama, Turkey, Slovenia, Chile, Belgium, Switzerland, Egypt, Djibouti, Iran, Norway, Greece, Lichtenstein and Spain.

The Council will resume the discussion at 3 p.m. this afternoon and will then take action on a draft resolution on preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi.

Statement by the President of the Human Rights Council

JOACHIM RÜCKER, President of the Human Rights Council, opening the twenty-fourth Special Session of the Human Rights Council on preventing the further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, said that the request to convene a Special Session of the Council had been received on 11 December by the United States. 

The request was supported by following Member States: Albania, Argentina, El Salvador, Estonia, France, Germany, Ghana, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Montenegro, Netherlands, Portugal, Republic of Korea, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, United Kingdom, and United States.  The following Observer States supported the request: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Norway, Panama, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and Uruguay.

Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

ZEID RA’AD AL HUSSEIN, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Burundi was at a bursting point, on the brink of a civil war.  At least 400 people had been killed since 26 April, and the death toll may be considerably higher.  Of these, up to 68 might have been extra-judicially executed in November.   At least 3,496 people had been arrested in relation to the political crisis.  Human rights defenders and independent journalists had fled the country and gone into hiding and 220,000 people were now refugees in neighbouring countries, with many, many others internally displaced.  The High Commissioner said he had visited Burundi eight months ago and witnessed a very worrying simmering of tensions, intimidation, repression and increasing hate speech.  Burundi had then been at the crossroads, and a crucial choice lay ahead for the authorities, political and opposition leaders and their supporters – a path of peace or that of violence.  The events of last week had confirmed the extent to which violence and intimidation were catapulting the country back to the past – to Burundi’s deeply troubled, dark, and horrendously violent past.  The time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around edges was over. 

The situation in Burundi demanded a robust, decisive response from the international community.   The High Commissioner had previously called on the Security Council to consider all possible steps to stop the ongoing violence and prevent a regional conflict, including travel bans and asset freezes.  Today, those calls were more relevant than ever.  Diplomatic and political calculations must not eclipse the need for action.  The carnage of last weekend had only served to move the much needed political solution further from reach.  There was barely any remaining semblance of trust between the authorities, political opponents and the population.  The situation needed urgent, concerted, decisive attention from the international community. Heavy and worrying restrictions against the freedoms of association and expression continued to be imposed.  Essential medicine stocks were dwindling, women and children under five faced particular nutritional and health risks, and food insecurity remained precariously high.  

The international community owed it to the people of Burundi to work towards a peaceful solution to the current crisis.  The primary responsibility for this lay with the State authorities, and there were many concrete actions they could immediately take to defuse the situation.  To start, the Government could take all necessary steps to disarm pro-government armed militia, including the Imbonerakure, and to bring the operations of police, intelligence services and other security forces under the mantle of the law.  The High Commissioner regretted that the authorities had yet to carry out effective investigations concerning the vast majority of cases of serious violations and abuses of human rights.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stood ready to assist in an international inquiry, along with the involvement of African institutions.  The Government had to also give unconditional instructions to State agents to immediately cease all acts of torture, and to hold to account those responsible for torture.  The Government had to also urgently undertake efforts to restore public confidence.  The task was getting more difficult with every extra-judicial killing, every arbitrary arrest, and every act of political repression.  Those responsible for these serious violations and abuses of human rights must be brought to book without delay.  The impunity currently enjoyed by perpetrators of human rights violations as well as by members of unidentified armed groups was contributing to individuals increasingly taking the law into their own, violent hands.  There needed to be independent, effective investigations and justice, and those who had been arbitrarily detained in unknown locations needed to be accounted for, in line with the rule of law. 

The Government of Burundi, the Human Rights Council and the broader international community had a clear obligation to support the fact-finding mission being carried out by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights in Burundi and the African Union’s efforts to address impunity, including through the nine human rights observers currently on the ground.  The African Union Peace and Security Council efforts deserved the full support of the international community, and the full contingent of 100 observers had to be deployed as soon as possible.  The results of their fact-finding mission had to be made public as soon as possible.  For political dialogue to be meaningful, a solid commitment was needed, and everyone who had sharply opposing views to those of the authorities, including those in exile, had to be involved.  There needed to be close monitoring of the borders with the neighbouring countries.  The use of drones needed to be considered as one method of conducting such monitoring.  The Human Rights Council and all Member States, but Burundi’s neighbours in particular, had to now play a constructive role in insisting on an inclusive and credible inter-Burundian dialogue with respect for human rights, an end to impunity, and commitments to end the use of violence.   

Keynote Statements

ADAMA DIENG, Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, said that this Special Session was taking place at a very critical juncture of the crisis in Burundi.  Mr. Dieng said he had briefed the Security Council in November 2015 and had warned that although the crisis was primarily political in nature, there was a risk that continued manipulation of ethnicity by the leaders of both the ruling CNDD-FDD (Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces de défense de la démocratie appelé communément) and opposition parties could change the trajectory of this crisis and lead to targeted attacks based either on political affiliation or on ethnic identity.  This was unfortunately what had happened and the country appeared to be on the verge of a descent into violence that could escalate into atrocity crimes.  Grave human rights violations were occurring daily with total impunity, including summary execution of civilians, disappearances, excessive use of force in the conduct of security operations, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention and torture.  Assassinations of high-profile individuals affiliated with both the ruling party and the opposition were clear warning signs that should alert the international community to the risk of atrocity crimes.  Mr. Dieng expressed concern at the manipulation of ethnicity by Burundian leaders on both sides and the use of language similar to that used before and during the Rwandan genocide,  in particular the repeated use of the word gukora, which meant “to work” in Kirundi, and was used to incite people to commit genocide in Rwanda in 1994. 

Burundi was at a crossroads and the international community must pay attention.  No one should underestimate what was at stake.  The civil war between 1993 and 2005 had cost over 300,000 lives and had displaced more than one million persons.  The country was at another tipping point now and the international community could not afford to stand by as it did at that time, and must take urgent measures to deter further violence and prevent the current crisis from escalating.  Such measures could include full support to the African Union Peace and Security Council decisions and the deployment of human rights monitors and investigators from the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, urge Burundi to cooperate with regional and international actors and put an end to the current cycle of violence, establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate ongoing violations in Burundi, and support the International Criminal Court to open preliminary investigations into possible crimes committed in Burundi, including incitement to violence.  In closing, Mr. Dieng stressed that given the clear information about the gravity of the situation, the international community would not be able to claim, if a full scale conflict erupted, that “we didn’t know”; the international community had the responsibility to protect Burundians and to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes.

MICHAEL ADDO, Chairperson of the Coordination Committee of Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, expressed the Committee’s deep concerns at the appalling deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, as demonstrated by the recent killings that took place over the weekend in the country, which sharply increased the risk of recurring mass violence in the Great Lakes region.  For the past eight months, numerous calls had been made to alert the Human Rights Council and the Security Council to the spiral of violence that started in late April, when President Nkuruyiya’s candidacy for a third term was announced and peaceful protests were met by a violent crackdown by security forces.  More calls for immediate attention had been made in June/July of this year, with a warning that elections, if undertaken in the prevailing climate of repression and insecurity, were highly likely to result in major instability and confrontation.  In September, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence stressed that the ‘tradition of impunity’ in Burundi’s past decades clearly enabled the recent repression of violence. 

This persistence of the dire situation in Burundi was unacceptable, especially for a country that had just been elected to the Human Rights Council, the Members of which were expected to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.  In this regard, Burundi was urged to make its commitment a reality for its people.  The Human Rights Council had a unique opportunity to address the highly volatile situation in Burundi, which required a resolute and immediate response.  Such a response rested upon an impartial assessment of human rights violations on the ground, irrespective of the identity or affiliation of the victim or the perpetrator.  Such a response would break the “tradition of impunity” which lay at the heart of most of the country’s difficulties.  The Committee called upon the Human Rights Council to scale-up its monitoring and preventive function in relation to Burundi, including by establishing a mechanism that would be able to assess the situation and be deployed without delay in order to respond to the urgency of the situation.  Other United Nations institutions including the Security Council had to also respond to the situation in Burundi with unequivocal robustness.  Any initiative had to include a strong human rights component.

AISHA LARABA ABDULLAHI, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, reiterated deep concern about the situation in Burundi and the strong condemnation of all acts of violence and violations of human rights and the statements that inflamed the situation.  Only inclusive dialogue involving all Burundian stakeholders would enable Burundi to overcome the serious challenges and prevent the situation from totally undermining the gains made since the signing of the Arusha Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation.  The Commission of the African Union had deployed in Burundi in July 2015 a team of ten human rights observers and five military experts, who were reporting on possible violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in an independent, transparent and credible manner.  They reported that the situation continued to deteriorate and remained of concern.  Ms. Abdullahi reiterated the determination of the African Union to fully assume its responsibilities as a Guarantor of the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Burundi.  The Peace and Security Council of the African Union had expressed deep concern over the deterioration of the security situation marked by political assassinations and increased violence, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation, and appealed to the international community to continue to provide humanitarian relief to internally displaced persons and refugees. 

In order to support African solutions for African problems, the Commissioner reiterated the African Union’s support to the mediation efforts led by the President of Uganda on behalf of East African Community and urged the Government of Burundi and all other stakeholders to lend him their full cooperation, to fully implement all decisions made by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to expedite political dialogue and refrain from committing further violations of human rights, and to fully respect international humanitarian law.  Ms. Abdullahi stressed that the political support of the international community, including the Human Rights Council, to the African Union’s efforts was necessary to ensure a successful dialogue that would pave the way for an ever-lasting peace in Burundi.  She also reiterated the call to the United Nations Security Council and its members to fully support efforts led by Africa to reach a peaceful political solution to the crisis in Burundi, which would ensure full protection of human rights and rule of law.

Statement by Burundi as the Concerned Country

Burundi, speaking as the concerned country, said that since June, during the Human Rights Council regular session, Burundi had been calling upon the responsibility of the international community regarding the crisis.  Burundi denounced the statements of some foreign public figures, which deliberately masked realities on the ground in order to influence the world, with the aim to support the radical opposition, which in turn attacked the democratically elected institutions in order to install a transition Government and thus occupy leading positions without having been given legitimacy by the people Burundi.  Burundi was astonished that attacks qualified as terrorism in other countries were timidly denounced by part of the international community.  The quasi-silence could be interpreted as support towards the radical opposition and criminal armed groups, which could incite new attempts for destabilisation.  

Burundi regretted that its request to postpone the Human Rights Council Special Session to the following week had not been heeded, and that this Session was being held in the absence of most ambassadors of the African Union, who had been called to participate in the Summit of Ministers of the World Trade Organization.  The responsibility of certain western countries in the Burundian crisis was becoming more and more a reality.  The Government of Burundi sought a firm condemnation by the international community to the radical opposition which was organizing attacks on Burundi from outside as well as forcibly recruiting young refugee children in neighbouring camps.  The Government favoured dialogue to resolve the problem and called for both technical and financial support of the national commission for the Inter-Burundian dialogue form within and outside Burundi.

Discussion

Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted the growth of violence, hate speech and incitement to violence in Burundi and said that the Human Rights Council must play a preventive role in this situation.  The European Union deplored grave human rights violations and stressed that combatting impunity was essential and that those responsible for committing the crime must be brought before justice.  The European Union underlined that only inter-Burundian dialogue could find a solution to this situation, and noted the preventive role of the Council. 

France condemned the summary executions and targeted assassinations in Burundi and the limitations imposed on fundamental freedoms, particularly on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.  The tipping point had been reached and Burundi must now choose to abandon violence and embark on peacebuilding, through inter-Burundian dialogue.  France called for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the violations committed in Burundi and said that no effort should be spared to prevent a tragedy.

United States was deeply concerned about the situation in Burundi, which had caused more than 200,000 persons to flee, and stressed the obligation of the international community to use all its tools to prevent any further escalation.  The United States commended the vital role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in reporting on this situation. 

Japan said it was time not only for Burundi itself, but for the international community as a whole, to step up its action to improve the human rights situation in Burundi.  Japan expected the Government of Burundi to continue to participate in talks with international and regional organizations.  The presence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights field office was now more important than ever.  Japan had contributed $ 1.5 million to this Office and expected to play an active role in contributing to the improvement of the human rights situation in Burundi.

Algeria said that the situation in Burundi was alarming, especially the deterioration of the human rights situation.  All human rights violations had to stop and all perpetrators of violations had to be brought to justice.  The events were of concern because of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who had fled to neighboring countries, and who destabilized the situation in the region.  Prompting a political solution to the crisis was needed, as was the promotion of the human rights of all, regardless of political affiliation or ethnic origin.

Nigeria strongly believed that the current situation would not cease if the issue of arming the opposition was not addressed and a comprehensive peace agreement built on the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement was not convened.   Nigeria called on non-state armed groups in neighbouring countries to stop arming elements of the opposition so that peace could return to the country.  It also called on the Government of Burundi to ensure that peace and security reign in the country and bring perpetrators of violence to the book. 

Gabon continued to be concerned by the situation in Burundi, condemned all acts of violence in the country, and encouraged all stakeholders to pursue political dialogue.  Gabon welcomed efforts by the international community, the United Nations, the African Union and others to bring an end to the violence and find a lasting solution to the crisis and a humanitarian solution.  Gabon stood ready to support all efforts to support the return of peace to Burundi. 

China believed that the situation in Burundi was not in the interest of its people and of Africa.  China supported the efforts to promote reconciliation and dialogue at all levels and said that any action by the Human Rights Council in this complex situation must be conducive to peace and security in Burundi.  The international community should provide more support to the peace process and economic and social development in Burundi.

Estonia expressed concern about human rights violations and limitations on fundamental freedoms in Burundi.  Everything must be done to stop the violence and find a peaceful solution to mounting tensions by authorities and all other parties.  The international community must remind the Government of Burundi of its responsibilities under international law to protect its people, and its obligations under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Germany said that mounting violence by actors was causing instability not only to Burundi but to the whole region.  Germany called on the Government to immediately end actions that could lead to a further deterioration of the situation.  Germany also stressed that all actors in Burundi had a duty to prevent further escalation and urged all sides to refrain from violence. 

Montenegro was concerned about the findings which indicated the large scale of human rights abuses, including against human rights defenders and the media.  There was a persistent risk of spreading the violence in the region, having in mind that hundreds of thousands had been forced to flee to neighbouring countries.  Montenegro encouraged the Government of Burundi and other stakeholders to initiate an inclusive and meaningful dialogue as only under such dialogue would there be a lasting solution. 

Argentina was concerned that the violence in Burundi would result in an uncontrollable conflict and believed that the efforts should be supported by the largest possible amount of stakeholders.  Argentina acknowledged the efforts by the African Union and other regional and sub-regional organizations.  For these efforts to bear fruit, all parties had to refrain from violence and curtail human rights abuses.  A genuine process of dialogue justice and reconciliation had to be embarked upon. 
Republic of Korea said that the alarming situation in Burundi required urgent and acute attention, stressed the importance of preventing further worsening of the situation, and urged the Government of Burundi and other parties to hold a genuine and inclusive dialogue to find a political solution to the crisis.  Enhancing international engagement at the regional and global levels would serve as a catalyst for improving the situation.

Ireland said that it was vital that the Human Rights Council acted swiftly where there was a risk of serious human rights violations and Burundi was one of those situations, as it was clear that perpetrators were convinced that they could carry out attacks with total impunity.  Addressing the impunity and ensuring justice and accountability were crucial to addressing this crisis.  Ireland commended the strong and principled response by the African Union and welcomed the Security Council resolution 2248 and the intended mission to the country. 

Netherlands said that this Special Session was an opportunity to have a human rights dialogue with the Government of Burundi.  The Netherlands was extremely concerned about the escalation of violence and resolutely reminded the Government of Burundi of its primary responsibility to protect its population from human rights violations and acts of violence.  The Netherlands stressed the important role of human rights observers to find evidence necessary to hold accountable those who had used force illegally or arbitrarily.

United Kingdom was alarmed about the deterioration of the situation in Burundi over the weekend and the deepening of the crisis.  Burundi could choose to take the path of inclusive dialogue leading to sustainable political dialogue, or take the path of continued intransigency and a slow descent towards civil war.  The Government of Burundi was instrumental in creating the current crisis, as its refusal to engage with its opponents had led Burundi to the brink of disaster.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that the human rights situation in Burundi was reaching a critical threshold and the risk of mass atrocity crimes was imminent.  Immediate steps had to be taken by the Government and opposition to de-escalate tensions and avoid any further militarization of the current political conflict.  This could only be achieved through inclusive dialogue involving all national and international stakeholders.  

Russia was profoundly concerned about the deteriorating situation in Burundi and the absence of dialogue among the stakeholders.  The worsening situation was due to clashes in areas of military bases.  Russia condemned attacks on the military installations of Burundi which were probably supported from outside the country.  This would have damaging consequences for Burundi.  The Burundian Government had the primary responsibility to uphold security within the country.

Venezuela said Burundi had been subject to decades of colonization, and this had made it difficult to affirm its situation as a sovereign State.  The conflict required cooperation and solidarity from peoples of the world.  The situation had been exacerbated by the financial capitalist crisis.  Venezuela hoped negotiations would be held to bring an immediate end of the conflict and supported a genuine and inclusive dialogue amongst all Burundians. 

Brazil firmly believed that this Special Session would play a positive role in preventing the worsening of the human rights and security situation in Burundi and avoiding the risk of regional repercussions.  The Council had a fundamental role in identifying problems and leading analysis of their implications for human rights.  The main contribution of this session to preventing the further escalation of violence was to emphasize the absolute urgency of convening an inter-Burundian dialogue to find a consensual and nationally owned solution to the current crisis.

Viet Nam strongly condemned all acts of violence against civilians and believed that only an inclusive dialogue and collaboration between all actors in the country could stop the violence and restore stability.  It was a prerequisite that international and regional assistance was received with the consensus of the Burundian authorities and all relevant actors.

Mexico was concerned about the serious human rights situation in Burundi and hoped that the conflict that had started last April would be swiftly brought to an end.  It was vital that the international community act swiftly on situations that jeopardised peace and stability in countries and regions, especially where there was evidence of serious human rights violations and ensure the prevention of a political crisis from becoming a humanitarian one.

Ghanasaid that in 1999 Nelson Mandela had spoken the truth in asking: “for how long shall we kill our own people?”  This question had to be answered.  The delegation of Ghana particularly welcomed the words of Dr. Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union, who had underscored the importance of this Special Session.  The decision of Ghana to support the Special Session was partly inspired by the fact that the situation had consequences for violence in the entire region. 

Bolivia said that it deplored the loss of life and called for the right to life to be respected.  Bolivia reiterated that respect for sovereignty as well as the principles of international law and self-determination had to prevail.  It hoped that the people and Government of Burundi would find the path to peace.  Bolivia supported a dialogue which would lead to peace.

Kenya was deeply concerned by the very tense environment in Burundi which was a deep, spiralling political crisis, increasingly being viewed as a situation of potential escalating into mass violence.  The situation threatened the remarkable achievements made over the years on the basis of the historic Arusha Agreement.  The international community had a responsibility to ensure that such recurrence never happened.

Uruguay was alarmed about the deteriorating political and security situation in Burundi which warranted special attention by the international community and special attention by the Human Rights Council.  There was a clear need for extra efforts to ensure that human rights were respected and further ills were avoided:  it was the international community’s responsibility to protect the Burundian population.

Holy See said that the present crisis and the obstacles to the exercise of human rights in Burundi evoked past tensions that had affected this and other countries in the Great Lakes Region, with tragic consequences.  The Council should put in place an international mechanism that guaranteed an end to wanton violence and prevent arm trafficking, promote effective and transparent efforts and reconciliation, and build conditions that would allow the safe return of refugees.

Angola was concerned about the political crisis and the spiralling post-electoral violence besetting Burundi, and continued to support the focus on technical cooperation and capacity building based on the relevant resolutions by the Security Council and Human Rights Council.  Angola called upon Burundi to cooperate with all international mechanisms and stop the violence in the country. 

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that any attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of a country under the pretext of human rights should not be justified as this infringed upon the United Nations Charter and relevant rules of the United Nations, as well as the principles of independence and territorial integrity of Member States.  Politicization, selectivity, and double standards in the field of human rights should be put to an end immediately.

Australia was gravely concerned about the continuing violence in Burundi.  It encouraged the immediate deployment of a mission of experts to investigate and make recommendations on possible solutions for the crisis.  It urged the Government of Burundi to work with this mission and grant it access to all areas to ensure thorough and accurate reporting.

Canada said that the escalation of torture, summary executions, arbitrary detentions, and prevention of civil society meetings were all alarming.  This situation was similar to past events in the region. The international community had to ensure that past mistakes were not repeated.  The sense of responsibility which had ended the civil war had to prevail. 

Austria said that the Human Rights Council had a responsibility to prevent human rights violations and take prompt action.  Over a decade after the civil war, Burundi faced widespread violence.  A political process was needed to solve the situation and it had to be inclusive as the reported number of people who had lost lives was growing day by day. 

Panama said that the Human Rights Council was the custodian of the values and responsibilities that all States had accepted with the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Actions to prevent human rights violations must not wait for violations to happen and then point a finger.  Panama called upon the Government to fulfil the Cotonou Agreement and respect the obligations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. 

Turkey called upon the Government of Burundi to conduct impartial investigations into all cases of human rights violations in order to fight impunity.  The humanitarian outlook in the country remained dire, with more than 220,000 persons fleeing the country.  Turkey stressed the importance of an inclusive and genuine inter-Burundian dialogue to prevent further polarization.

Slovenia welcomed the convening of this Special Session and was deeply concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi, which had caused hundreds of deaths and more than 240,000 refugees who had fled the country and already had an impact on the region.  Slovenia recalled that as an upcoming member of the Council, Burundi had made the commitment to uphold the highest standards of human rights and the responsibility to protect its people.

Chile called upon all the parties in Burundi to respect human rights, exercise restraint and engage in constructive dialogue, which was the only solution to the crisis.  It was vital to take preventive action now, and it was the responsibility of the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to meet the fundamental values of peace, security and human rights.  The contribution of the East African Community and the African Union was vital in achieving peace as regional bodies had great knowledge of the area and were directly affected by events in the region.

Belgium said that the Human Rights Council had to prevent Burundi from becoming destabilised.  Belgium condemned arbitrary arrests of civil society members, members of government and of the opposition.  In view of the stalemate, more opponents had resorted to armed violence, and this had led to the risk of civil war.  Hate speech and other acts of incitement were unacceptable. 

Switzerland was concerned about the spiralling violence in Burundi and encouraged all parties to engage in an inclusive dialogue.  The violence against human rights defenders had to stop.  Switzerland was concerned about the suspension of non-governmental organizations that worked in the field of human rights.  It emphasized the importance of independent inquiries into human rights violations in order to combat impunity. 

Egypt called for the rejection of the Human Rights Council’s repeated initiatives without consulting the concerned countries beforehand.  This kind of action by the Human Rights Council did not meet human rights aims, undermined the credibility and objectivity of the Human Rights Council and was counter-productive.  Egypt believed that the Burundian Government was closely monitoring the situation and the challenges it faced.

Djibouti acknowledged the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assess the human rights situation in Burundi, called for peace, and urged the Government and all other parties to refrain from violence.  The Council must take effective action to protect the fundamental rights of the Burundian people.

Iran said the Human Rights Council should engage Burundi in a constructive manner with the view of improving the human rights situation on the ground.  Dialogue was the only way to resolve the current situation and Iran called on regional groups and the international community to provide support to Burundi in this regard.

Norway was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Burundi and said that the Government must take urgent steps to investigate violations and to bring perpetrators to justice.  It was crucial that dialogue was resumed without delay and Norway expressed support for the deployment of the African Union’s human rights observers and military experts to Burundi.

Greece continued to be deeply concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi and strongly condemned all acts of violence there, including summary executions and torture.  It was a high time for an inclusive dialogue to be held to promote reconciliation, which would include everyone and would be instrumental in establishing the rule of law in the country. 

Liechtenstein said that recent developments in Burundi showed that action taken so far by the international community was not enough.  The leadership of the Security Council must be in line with the code of conduct on atrocity crimes to take timely and decisive action to prevent or end genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.  The draft resolution met this goal.

Spain welcomed the holding of this Special Session in view of the deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi and believed it was unacceptable that high-ranking officials fuelled violence.  All parties must refrain from such actions.  Spain urged the authorities to identify perpetrators of violations and bring them to justice.  Spain believed that the engagement of the African Union in the dialogue was vital in the search for solutions.

 __________

For use of the information media; not an official record

Follow UNIS Geneva on: Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |Flickr

Back

Back

No