As High Commissioner Zeid said in his opening statement, “the human rights situation [in Burundi] continues to deteriorate throughout the country.”
Human Rights Watch documented how Burundi’s security services and ruling party youth league members killed, raped, abducted, beat, and intimidated suspected opponents in the months leading up to the May 17 constitutional referendum. Many victims were targeted for refusing to register to vote or contribute funds to finance upcoming polls. In some cases, simply not belonging to the ruling party was enough to create suspicion and provoke a response.
The referendum – which will now allow Nkurunziza to stay in power until 2034 – took place in a climate that was clearly not conducive to free choice.
Ruling party members have used hate speech and attempted to foment ethnic hatred against ethnic Tutsi, which risks provoking largescale violence.
The government has failed to take reasonable steps to ensure security and protect its citizens, or to fulfill its duty to take all reasonable measures to prevent and prosecute these crimes. Moreover, Burundi’s newly revised Constitution outlaws extradition, in an apparent attempt to thwart prosecutions by the International Criminal Court, which is currently investigating serious crimes committed in Burundi since 2015.
The Team of Experts mandated by the Council last year was expelled from Burundi last month and has not been able to return, as the High Commissioner noted on June 18. Burundi has also kept its doors shut to the Commission of Inquiry and refused to finalize discussion on the renewal of its memorandum of understanding with the High Commissioner’s office, which the Security Council has repeatedly urged the government to finalize without further delay.
The GA resolution creating the Council provides that members who commit gross and systematic human rights violations may be suspended from this body, and that membership comes with obligations of cooperation. Clearly, Burundi is in breach of these membership standards. The Commission of Inquiry found on reasonable grounds that Burundi has committed crimes against humanity since April 2015. Burundi has refused to cooperate with the Commission - or even with the mission of experts appointed under the item 10 resolution it professed to support. We urge the Council to recommend that Burundi be suspended from this body, until there is meaningful cooperation with the mission of experts, the COI and the OHCHR, and significant measures taken to stem the continuing violations and climate of impunity.
Finally, we would like to ask the Commission of Inquiry how it envisions the next steps in September and beyond, in order to keep Burundi under close international scrutiny and ensure accountability for past abuses.