GENEVA (13 November 2015) – A group of United Nations experts* welcomed today the UN Security Council attention on the situation in Burundi, and expressed outrage over the situation of human rights in the country, warning that “the country is going towards an unacceptable path of atrocities.”
The independent experts’ call follows the adoption yesterday by the UN Security Council of resolution 2248 (2015), condemning ‘the increased cases of human rights violations and abuses in the country’.
“The situation in Burundi continues to deteriorate with daily reports of serious human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, attacks on independent media and harassment and killing of human rights defenders, unjustified limitations on freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, adding to more than 200,000 persons displaced by violence,” the independent experts stressed.
“We call on the authorities to take immediate steps to put an end to the rampant human rights violations and ensure there is no impunity for the perpetrators,” the experts said while recalling that in the last two months they have received reports showing that people arrested by the security forces have been found dead, many with signs of torture, in several locations in Bujumbura. “This is unacceptable; under international law, nothing can justify these violations.”
Earlier this month, police forces arrested Welli Nzitonda, the son of a prominent human rights defender continuously targeted by the police. His body was found two hours later with signs of head injuries. “The brutal killing of Mr. Nzitonda shows that, in spite of constant demands, nothing has been done to protect human rights defenders in Burundi,” they said.
“If a well-known and reputed defender is attacked in such a way, we fear the worst for those defenders who are more isolated and less visible,” the experts warned. “Horrendous manoeuvres or strategies that seek stifle a plurality of views in civil society, send a chilling message to those trying to assemble peacefully and associate freely and only add to the insecurity in the country.”
The group of experts warned that the situation in Burundi has by all accounts dangerously worsened in recent weeks. Amid a general climate of impunity, securities forces continue to act with total disrespect for the human rights of Burundians. Members of the security forces and supporters of the ruling party have also been attacked and killed by unidentified armed men.
“While we welcome the clear message and alert of the Security Council on the situation, actions should now follow and provide concrete responses fitting the magnitude of the risks at stake, for Burundi and the region,” they said stressing that “this is a crisis that is eminently political in nature and entails an increased risk of escalation of violence and further fracturing of the Burundian society.”
“We call for political solutions and mobilize all means and instruments available to prevent a further deterioration of the situation, including through political dialogue and ensuring accountability for the violations committed,” the experts said. “We also urge the authorities to dissociate themselves from divisive and inflammatory speeches.”
The independent experts called on the UN to provide all the resources necessary for the High Commission for Human Rights, the African Union and the African Commission of Human Rights to effectively operate in the country, in particular monitoring and report on the human rights situation, and supporting prevention efforts as a matter of priority.
“In this context, we take note of the commitment of the Burundi Government to fully cooperate with the UN Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, and call, in particular, for a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on summary executions to the country – whose request has been left without answer by the Government,” they said.
“If the security situation deteriorates further, we urge the Security Council to adopt immediate effective measures to prevent further loss of life,” the UN experts concluded.
(*) The experts: the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Michel Forst; the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns; the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani; and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, Pablo de Greiff.
The UN Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx
UN Human Rights, Country Page – Burundi: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/AfricaRegion/Pages/BIIndex.aspx
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