Human Rights Watch thanks the Commission of Inquiry for a much-needed update on the grave human rights violations that Burundian state agents, most notably the National Intelligence Service and administrative authorities, and members of the Imbonerakure, have committed against the population since May 2019.
Over the months leading up to the May 2020 general elections, Human Rights Watch documented killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, beatings and extortion of Burundians, particularly those perceived to be part of or sympathetic to the opposition. The Commission’s findings today paint a stark picture of the violence and brutality used by the Burundian authorities to maintain their hold on power. Its findings that sexual violence was committed, including against men, in order to collect intelligence, often during detention at the National Intelligence Service, are of grave concern.
While many states now look towards engaging with Burundi’s new government, the Commission’s report shows that the Burundian population continues to pay the price of the brutal tactics employed by the ruling party and its youth league. Although the electoral cycle has ended, these abuses show no sign of abating and the continued insecurity for civilians is reflected in the fact that there have been several serious incidents in recent weeks, including reports of civilian casualties.
It is vital that the Human Rights Council urge governments to ensure the continuation of a robust, independent and international mechanism to investigate, identify perpetrators of, and regularly report on human rights violations in Burundi.
Human Rights Watch welcomes the Commission’s contribution toward ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity in Burundi, and notes with particular concern that several persons whom the Commission has identified as perpetrators of human rights violations, hold high-level positions within Ndayishimiye’s government, or were promoted within the security and defense forces since his election.
The Human Rights Council should urge the Burundi government to take concrete actions to end widespread violations and the prevailing climate of impunity. To demonstrate its commitment to shift away from Nkurunziza’s repressive rule, the Burundian government should restore the space for independent civil society and media, and facilitate access for independent international organizations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which was forced to leave the country last year.