Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Briefing: Burundi, Syria and Nepal
18 April 2017
Subject: (1) Burundi, (2) Syria, (3) Nepal
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Tuesday expressed deep alarm at an apparent widespread pattern of rallies in several provinces across Burundi where young men from the Imbonerakure militia repeatedly chant a call to impregnate or kill opponents. High Commissioner Zeid said the organized nature of the marches, coupled with reports of ongoing serious human rights violations, lay bare the “campaign of terror” being waged in Burundi.
A chilling video circulating on social media shows more than 100 members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party, repeating dozens of times their call to “make opponents pregnant so that they can give birth to Imbonerakure”. Another group then repeats a chant in which the phrase “he or she should die” is audible some 19 times. The rally took place in Ntega commune, Kirundo province, in the northeast of the country.
Following the release of the video, on 5 April 2017 the CNDD-FDD issued a statement condemning the chanting and stating that a preliminary enquiry has found that there were “influences outside the party.” However, recent reports indicate that similar, larger rallies have been organized across the country by officials from the Government and the President’s party.
We add our voice to the condemnation of the attack near Rashideen near western rural Aleppo Governorate that hit a convoy carrying people from the besieged Syrian towns of Fuha and Kefraya to government-controlled areas, killing dozens of people. It is an attack which likely amounts to a war crime.
While at this stage unable to confirm how the attack was carried out or those responsible, footage seen by the UN Human Rights Office showed children gathering around a person giving out sweets just prior to the explosion.
We have just spoken to the head of the Aleppo Forensic Medical Department who informed us that hospitals in Aleppo city received the bodies of 96 civilians, including 13 women, 16 men, and 67 children – among them 16 girls and 51 boys. There are also reportedly at least 120 civilians in the Aleppo University Hospital.
The people were among those being evacuated from Fuha and Kerfraya as part of the Four Towns evacuation plan negotiated by Qatar and Iran.
These people had been living under incessant shelling for more than two years, with little food or medical supplies, and under the constant fear of attack by armed groups.
We have been able to confirm that some of the injured civilians remain missing - some are believed to have been taken by armed opposition groups to opposition controlled hospitals in Idleb Governorate. Due to their perceived sympathies for the Government of Syria, their families are concerned for their safety.
We are also highly concerned for the well-being of any remaining civilians in Fuha and Kefraya, as well as the well-being of civilians in the other two towns- Madaya and Zabadani, that are party to the “Four Towns Agreement”.
This attack, so soon after the Khan Sheikhoun attack where over 88 civilians were killed including at least 28 children, is another example of civilians paying the highest cost in this war. The high number of civilian casualties is a clear indication of the violation of the laws of armed conflict which require parties to spare the civilian population at all times. The number of children reportedly killed is particularly abhorrent.
We call on all parties to ensure the safety and protection of all people being evacuated.
We reiterate the High Commissioner’s call for accountability and the need to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.
We welcome the conviction on Sunday, 16 April, by a District Court in Nepal of three army officers accused of the murder of a 15-year-old girl Maina Sunuwar 13 years ago in February 2004. The Court sentenced the three soldiers - Babi Khatri, Amit Pun and Sunil Prasad Adhikari - to 20 years’ imprisonment for murder. A fourth officer who had been charged - a major who was repatriated by a UN peacekeeping mission in Chad in 2009 because of the arrest warrant against him - was acquitted by the court.
It is the first time that Nepal Army personnel have been convicted by a civilian court for crimes committed during the 1996-2006 conflict.
Maina Sunuwar was picked up on 17 February 2004 at her home in Kharelthok village in central Nepal and then interrogated for suspected links to Maoist rebels by soldiers who were looking for her mother. She was allegedly subjected to torture and later that month died in the custody of the Nepalese Army (NA) at the Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre in Panchkal. The NA and the government initially denied any knowledge of Maina’s fate or whereabouts and her body was buried secretly.
The UN Human Rights Office and other human rights organizations have persistently advocated for those responsible to be held fully accountable, and Sunday’s convictions come after a long succession of unsuccessful attempts to seek justice for the murder of Maina Sunuwar.
None of the officers were present in the District Court of Kavre, and it still remains to be seen whether they will actually be arrested and serve their sentences. We urge the authorities to implement the court’s decision on this extremely important emblematic case.