Burundi: The UN Commission of Inquiry Raises Red Flags At the Serious Human Rights Violations Committed in the Pre-Electoral Climate

Manifestations in Bujumbura (file photo)

Less than a year ahead of Burundi's presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 2020, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Burundi (COIB) concludes in its report released today the existence of a climate of fear and intimidation of all persons who do not show their support to the ruling party, CNDD-FDD. As members of its youth league, the "Imbonerakure", agents of the National Intelligence Service and of the police, and local authorities continue to commit serious human rights violations against Burundi citizens, the crisis sparked in 2015 has - far from being resolved - evolved to the point of affecting all corners of the country.

The report describes how Imbonerakure have carried out killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and ill-treatment and rape against actual or alleged political opposition members. The Commission finds that this alarming violence is fueled by the widespread impunity that prevails in Burundi.

"It is extremely dangerous to speak out critically in Burundi today," explains the COIB Chair, Mr. Doudou Diène. "The stifling of such voices is what allows the country to present an illusion of calm," adds COIB Commissioner Lucy Asuagbor, but "it is a 'calm' based on terror", says fellow COIB Commissioner Francoise Hampson, "as shown by the continued commission of crimes against humanity and the very serious human rights violations that we have documented".

In the report, the Commission details how local authorities and Imbonerakure are intimidating the local population to force them to join, support and contribute to the ruling party. Women and girls are gang raped by Imbonerakure during attacks of their homes or while trying to flee the country. Men - but also women - are subjected to sexual torture during detention by the intelligence service. This occurs with almost no scrutiny, given the severe restrictions on independent media and civil society, a dysfunctional justice system, and the recent closure of the country office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Commission is currently the only independent international mechanism investigating human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi.

Given the politically sensitive electoral period ahead, the COIB decided to be forward looking as well. Applying the "Framework of analysis for atrocity crimes", developed in 2014 by the UN Office for the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, the Commission found that the eight common risk factors for criminal atrocities are present in Burundi. "There is no better early warning than this," says the Chair. "Our analysis should be carefully considered, if the often repeated commitments to prevention are to have any meaning."

The Commissioners call upon the Government of Burundi to put an end to human rights violations committed by agents of the State and Imbonerakure. They highlight the urgent need to implement measures to prevent the deterioration of the human rights situation in the context of the 2020 elections. The Commission emphasizes that the situation in Burundi must be followed with utmost vigilance by the international community.

The findings of the Commission are based on more than 1, 200 statements of victims witnesses and alleged perpetrators of human rights violations, and other sources collected over the course of three years of investigation. This year, the Government of Burundi has once again refused any cooperation with the Commission, despite its repeated requests and initiatives.

The Commission will submit its report to the Human Rights Council during an inter-active dialogue, which will take place on 17th of September 2019, in Geneva. Bi-rolls are available at: https://vimeo.com/unhumanrights/review/357318193/66c066de19 (English).

https://vimeo.com/unhumanrights/review/357318793/9e0f6e5aab (French)

Infographics are available at

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIBurundi/Pages/CoIBurundiReportHRC42.aspx.

On this link, the official report will be available from 4th September, 13h00.

ENDS

Background

The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi was created on 30 September 2016 through United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 33/24. Its mandate is to conduct a thorough investigation into human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi since April 2015, to identify alleged perpetrators and to formulate recommendations.

The Commission is composed of three members: Doudou Diène (Senegal), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon) and Françoise Hampson (United Kingdom)

For more information and media requests, please contact: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Sandra Miller (COIB) (+ 41 22 917 3426 / smiller@ohchr.org

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