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

Since the Council last discussed Burundi, government repression and serious human rights abuses have continued unabated. Government security forces and members of the ruling party’s youth league, known as the Imbonerakure, continue to crack down on critics of Nkurunziza’s government. Hundreds of people have been killed, and many others tortured or forcibly disappeared since April 2015. Armed opposition groups have also attacked security forces and ruling party members, including police and Imbonerakure. More than 400,000 people have fled the country.

John Fisher's statement on behalf of Human Rights Watch at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 15, 2017.

The Burundian government denies that state agents are responsible for grave human rights violations. The national justice system is heavily influenced by the ruling party and has been unable to deliver credible justice for these crimes. This impunity sends a clear message to the Imbonerakure. They know they can kill, rape and intimidate citizens and get away with it.

In early April, a video emerged on social media showing about 200 members of the Imbonerakure gathered in northern Burundi, singing songs encouraging  the rape of political opponents or their relatives.

Attempts by international and regional leaders to bring Burundi’s political factions together for talks continue to stall. Leaders should increase their efforts to bring all parties together in a credible dialogue process.

The country’s once vibrant independent media and nongovernmental organizations have been decimated. The Council should urge the Burundian authorities to allow national NGOs, journalists, and political parties to operate freely. Monitoring and documenting human rights abuses remains of the utmost importance.

Burundi stands in contempt of the Council resolution creating the COI. Enough is enough. Cooperation with Council mechanisms is not an optional extra, it is a condition of membership, and there should be consequences for persistent non-compliance. The situation in Burundi will not improve in a significant or lasting way until there is an end to the impunity that lies at the heart of the crisis.