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Press briefing note in Burundi and Iraq

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 14 August 2015
Subjects:  (1) Burundi and (2) Iraq

(1) Burundi

The human rights situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate, with at least 96 people killed, mostly among the opposition, since the beginning of election-related violence in late-April.

At least 600 people were arrested and detained during this period, although a good number of them have since been released. There have been at least 60 cases of torture and many more cases of other ill-treatment in police and intelligence (SNR) detention facilities. Many of these detainees have been in pre-trial detention well beyond the time limits stipulated by law. Some, particularly those in SNR custody, have said they have not been allowed to receive visits from their families nor have they had legal counsel during interrogations.

The actual numbers of persons killed, detained or tortured may be much higher.

Yesterday, in the commune of Kamenge in Bujumbura Rural Province, a member of the CNDD-FDD and his wife were killed in their car as they were on their way home. Over the past two weeks, at least seven members of the ruling CNDD-FDD party have been killed by unidentified assailants. Such attacks are indicative of a climate of reprisals, but also a worrying sign that some parts of the opposition are increasingly resorting to violence.

We call on the Government to take measures to ensure the protection of civil society members and journalists. The prevailing violence in the country has had serious consequences for the enjoyment of a whole host of human rights. UNHCR has documented that more than 181,000 people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Some traders and business people who have fled the country have not returned. Commercial activities have reduced and as a result, there is increasing unemployment. The health sector is also suffering from supply shortages.

We urge all sides to resume dialogue before the situation spirals completely out of control. Burundi has been slipping closer to the edge with every high-profile attack and killing, and we call on leaders on all sides to take concrete steps to renounce the use of violence and to resolve differences peacefully. Where violations and abuses have occurred, there need to be prompt investigations with a view to bringing the perpetrators to account and justice for victims. So far, no trials have taken place in relation to the violence, killings, torture and ill-treatment since April, although the authorities have repeatedly indicated that investigations are under way and that some police elements have been arrested. We understand that in very few cases have investigations actually been initiated. Continuing impunity in Burundi can only fuel cycles of violence.

(2) Iraq

We warmly welcome the response of the Government of Iraq to the mass protests in the country earlier this month. Several thousand people protested against rampant government corruption, social inequality, poor social services and lack of accountability for officials. In response, a reform package was adopted with concrete steps to reinforce the rule of law, improve governance and respect for human rights.

We are encouraged by these reforms and we call on the authorities to ensure that human rights are at the core of implementation. We continue to follow developments and our office stands ready to continue supporting efforts to this end.


For more information, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org).