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UN Rights Body Should Maintain Scrutiny on Burundi

HRW Statement Item 4 - Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi - HRC51

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report and update on Burundi. Human Rights Watch remains deeply concerned by the continuing human rights crisis in Burundi. Now more than ever, international scrutiny, independent monitoring, and strong reporting are needed. 

Since the Special Rapporteur’s last oral update, Burundian media and civil society groups – most of whom still operate from exile – and international organizations such as Human Rights Watch have documented that Burundian national intelligence, security forces, and Imbonerakure members have continued to commit grave human rights violations, including killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention. We have seen limited positive steps under President Evariste Ndayishimiye’s presidency. 

Meanwhile, the lawyer and former human rights defender Tony Germain Nkina, who was arrested in October 2020, remains unjustly imprisoned. Despite no credible evidence presented by the prosecution, he was convicted of collaborating with a rebel group. 

Despite some government promises to address the pervasive climate of impunity and restore confidence in the justice system, the vast majority of these abuses go unpunished. The government’s repression remains entrenched, and in May, Human Rights Watch documented killings, disappearances, arbitrary detention, and torture of suspected government opponents.  

One egregious case involved eight Burundians who were detained incommunicado and tortured in Tanzania. When Tanzania forcibly returned the refugees, Burundi’s authorities put them on trial for participation in armed groups. Despite a Burundian judge saying the case was political, and the court acquitting them of all charges in August 2021, then again on appeal in March 2022, six of them remain jailed.  

It’s time for Burundian authorities to turn promises into action. Giving access to the Special Rapporteur, releasing all those unjustly imprisoned, and arresting and appropriately prosecuting perpetrators of serious human rights violations would demonstrate the government’s commitment to do so. We further urge the Council to ensure the Special Rapporteur is granted the time needed to fulfill his mandate, and support its renewal for a further year. 

We wish to ask the Special Rapporteur how he plans on ensuring inclusive consultations with civil society groups and continued monitoring of human rights violations in Burundi if he continues to be denied access to the country, and what resources his mandate would need moving forward to properly carry out the work. 

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