19 September 2017

Burundi: Human Rights Council Should Extend Mandate of Commission of Inquiry On Burundi and Ask General Assembly to Review Burundi's Membership in Top UN Rights Body

Photo: HCR/Kate Holt
Dispaced people (file photo).
press release

Human Rights Watch welcomes the report and the oral update of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

The Commission of inquiry recently confirmed "the persistence of extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and sexual violence in Burundi since April 2015." The Commission attributes most of these violations to members of the National Intelligence Service, the police, the army and the youth league of the ruling party, known as Imbonerakure, findings confirmed by Human Rights Watch.

Instead of facing up to its responsibilities under international law, the Burundian government is in complete denial. High-level officials repeatedly state that Burundi is "peaceful" and "calm," and rebuke all criticism as an obscure "conspiracy." As one Burundian activist in exile told us: "It really hurts to hear our government say such things."

As a member of this Council, Burundi has an obligation to uphold the highest standards of human rights, and to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms. Yet, Burundi's blatant refusal to cooperate with the Commission - even to just open its doors for access - shows its disrespect for the Council, and for its membership responsibilities.

In addition, it has suspended its cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Commission of Inquiry has concluded, on reasonable grounds, that crimes against humanity have been committed in Burundi.

A sitting Council member found to have committed crimes against humanity, and to have violated every membership standard, brings this body into disrepute. The Council should call on the General Assembly to suspend Burundi's membership, or at least to consider the issue in the light of the findings of the COI.

As the political crisis in Burundi drags on, prospects for human rights improvement are bleak. It is therefore critical for the Council to extend the Commission's mandate, so it can give the victims in Burundi the attention they deserve, and bring increased attention to the need for accountability, with a view to putting a brake on the worst abuses and paving the way towards justice.

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