GENEVA, 14 May 2020 – Alarmed by the numerous acts of violence and human rights violations during the electoral campaign for the elections of 20 May 2020, including that of the President of the Republic, the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi calls on the Burundian authorities and all political party leaders to step up their efforts for a peaceful resolution of election-related tensions.
The Commission issued a statement today expressing its concern regarding the conduct of the electoral process, marred by violent clashes between members of the contending political parties and numerous arrests of political opponents, while persons close to the ruling party continue to enjoy near total impunity for their abuses.
These elections are the final step to fully implement the 2018 Constitution that provides stronger presidential powers. For instance, presidential term is extended to seven years instead of the current five, he has de facto the right of veto on the promulgation of laws and the National Intelligence Service is now placed under the direct his authority without control by the Parliament.
“For several months now, our Commission has alerted Burundian authorities and the international community on the risks of such an aggravation of political intolerance and violence on the eve of elections,” observed Doudou Diène, the President of the Commission. “We have particularly stressed that the shrinking democratic space and the numerous violations of public liberties are important risk factors, as is the lack of independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), the official guarantor for the proper conduct of these elections”.
The Commission is concerned that under these conditions, the conduct of the electoral process or the announcement of the official elections results scheduled for 4 June 2020 may trigger a new and deeper cycle of political violence.
“We call on the Government of Burundi to immediately stem this spiral of violence by taking all the necessary measures to guarantee the respect and the protection of public liberties and to put an end to the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of acts of violence, some of whom hold senior positions”, added the President. He further noted that “political party leaders of all sides have the responsibility to prevent acts of violence. Failing this, they should be aware that they will be held criminally responsible for their actions and, in some circumstances, for those of their followers”.
The Commission invited all competent jurisdictions, including those outside the Burundian judicial system, to consider instituting criminal proceedings against those who bear most responsibility for gross human rights violations committed in the context of the ongoing electoral process.
Referring to its earlier statement on COVID-19, the Commission reiterated its concerns about “the decision by the Burundian authorities not to apply the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations on social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during the electoral campaign”. The Commission also deeply regretted the recent decision by the Government to declare persona non grata the country Representative of WHO and three of its experts.
The President of the Commission concluded by noting that “the elections of 20 May 2020 will only be able to usher in a new era of stability in Burundi if the electoral process is conducted in a peaceful and secure manner, with total transparency and independence to ensure that its results are considered credible and accepted by all. The international community should continue to follow the human rights situation in the electoral context in Burundi with the utmost vigilance”.
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More information about the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.