Background Briefing

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Transitional Justice

The Arusha peace accord signed in 2000 provided for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission and an international judicial commission of inquiry under U.N. auspices,58 but the U.N. Security Council rejected this plan and proposed instead a truth commission and a special chamber within the Burundian judicial system.59

Initially, the government of Burundi appeared ready to cooperate with the U.N. in creating these institutions.60 On October 26, 2005, First Vice-President Martin Nduwimana named a commission to prepare for a truth and reconciliation commission, but did not mandate it expressly to deal with establishing a judicial chamber. 61  At the time, the U.N. signaled that it was waiting to assist in creating both mechanisms for accountability,62 but as of February 15, 2005, the commission had not yet consulted the relevant United Nations representatives.63 Nor had they consulted with Burundians outside the commission, suggesting that those most concerned, such as the victims of the long-term civil war, might be excluded from the deliberations on the mechanisms to be established.64

[58] The 2003 Burundian law against genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity specifies that an international judicial commission of inquiry must determine whether any of these crimes have been committed. The Security Council decision not to establish such a commission apparently renders null and void this arrangement, which is fundamental to prosecutions under the 2003 law. Burundi must therefore adopt a new law immediately in order to make prosecution of these crimes possible in Burundian courts. See Loi no. 1/004 du 8 mai 2003 portant répression du crime de génocide, des crimes contre l’humanité et des crimes de guerre.

[59] Letter dated March 11, 2005 from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the Security Council; U.N. Security Council resolution 1606, June 20, 2005.

[60] “Government pleased with UN resolution on truth commission,” U.N. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Burundi, June 22, 2005.

[61]Arrêté du 1er Vice-Président (n° 120/VP1/01/05) du 26 octobre 2005 qui nomme la “Délégation gouvernementale chargée de négocier avec l’ONUB la mise en place de la CNVR.” This commission is charged with defining the terms of reference, calendar and other operational details of the truth and reconciliation commission.

[62] “UN And Burundi Will Start Preparatory Talks On Post-Conflict Truth Commission,” U.N. News Service, October 14, 2005. 

[63] Confirmed by Patrick Gavigan, head of Rule of Law, ONUB, by e-mail communication to Human Rights Watch, February 15, 2006.

[64] Human Rights Watch interviews with Chef de Cabinet Beatrice Ntahe, Bujumbura, December 2, 2005, and February 17, 2006.

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