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Burundi: The time has come for President Ndayishimiye to remove the uncertainties surrounding his human rights policy

11 March 2021

Geneva, 11 March 2021 – Human rights developments in Burundi since the 2020 elections remains ambiguous and reflect uncertainties according to the analysis of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, presented today at the Human Rights Council. “The first symbolic and one-off gestures have indeed taken place, but these steps, like President Ndayishimiye’s declarations of intent, will not be sufficient to permanently improve the situation. We expect them to be followed by concrete actions that decisively advance the human rights situation,” stated Mr. Doudou Diène, the President of the Commission.

The Government of Burundi has demonstrated that the fight against impunity is a matter of political will since some Imbonerakure have been prosecuted and sentenced for murders and other crimes. However, serious human rights violations continue to be committed, in particular by agents of the National Intelligence Service, following the multiple security incidents that have taken place since the summer of 2020. The “hunt” for the rebels has intensified, and former soldiers, members of their families, young Tutsis, and political opponents have been killed, kidnapped and reported missing, arrested and tortured.

Admittedly, the Head of State made a positive move by ordering the release of the four Iwacu journalists detained since October 2019, and requesting a solution to allow the media suspended since 2015 to resume their activities. However, almost at the same time, we learned of the life sentences given to 12 journalists and human rights defenders in exile for their alleged involvement in the failed coup of May 2015.

Members of the main opposition party CNL (Congrès national pour la liberté) remain closely monitored and several have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in recent months, as has former opposition MP Fabien Banciryanino, imprisoned since October 2020, for having denounced the human rights violations committed under President Nkurunziza. In contrast, Imbonerakure (members of the ruling party’s youth league) continue to usurp the role of the police and the army in rural areas and pursue their criminal activities unchallenged.

“The current situation in Burundi is too complex and uncertain to be referred to as genuine improvement. The Government of Burundi must clarify the path it intends to follow in terms of human rights, but also implement structural measures conducive to good governance, rule of law, independence and impartiality of the justice system because the international community expects meaningful changes,” added Mr. Diène.

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