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Burundi and the UN: a new chapter, not a blank page

The UN Human Rights Council’s decision to maintain its scrutiny of Burundi is sensible, DefendDefenders said today. As the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi completed its work, the UN’s top human rights body adopted a reso­lution that esta­bli­shes a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the country. It is now vital for the Council to formu­late a clear strategy of engagement with the Burundian gov­ern­ment. 

“Through its work over the last five years, the CoI set the bar high for inde­pendent inves­tigative mecha­nisms,” said Has­san Shire, Exe­cu­tive Direc­tor, Def­end­­Defen­ders. “The Human Rights Council decided to change its approach but maintain a special focus on Burundi. As the evidence collected and recommendations formulated by the CoI will stay, this is a new chapter, not a blank page.” 

The resolution adopted today provides an overview of the human rights situation in Burundi. While noting some positive steps (including the release of political prisoners and resumption of ope­ra­tions of radio stations), it condemns the killings, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrests documented in the country, as well as severe restrictions on civil and political rights and wide­spread im­pu­nity. It was adopted a few days after the Ngozi Appeals Court upheld the ground­less conviction of lawyer Tony Germain Nkina. 

The resolution establishes a mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on Burundi, an ex­pert tasked with monitoring the human rights situation, making recommendations for its imp­ro­ve­ment, and re­por­ting to the Human Rights Council. While the Spe­cial Rapporteur will be unable to continue the totality of the investigative work carried out by the CoI, he or she will “collect, examine and assess” information on human rights deve­lop­ments. Additionally, the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) will ensure that evidence col­lec­ted by the CoI is “consolidated, preserved, accessible and usable in support of ongoing and future accountability efforts.” This includes International Criminal Court (ICC) efforts to hold Bu­rundian officials responsible for atrocities to account. 

The Burundian government continues to reject cooperation with the UN human rights system. As a first step towards resuming its engagement with the Council, it should grant the Special Rap­porteur, who will be appointed in March 2022, access to the country for an official visit. 

“The Council needs a clear, long-term strategy regarding Burundi,” said Estella Ka­bach­wezi, Advocacy, Research and Communications Ma­na­­ger, Def­end­­Defen­ders. “This strategy should rely on bench­marks and indicators to objectively assess both human rights developments and its approach to addressing Burundi’s situation.” 

Resolution L.19/Rev.1[1] was adopted as the Council completes its 48th regular session (HRC48, 13 Sep­tember-11 October 2021). Ahead of HRC48, DefendDefenders and more than 40 NGOs urged[2] the Council to “ensure continued documentation, monitoring, public reporting, and public deba­tes on Burundi’s human rights situation, with a focus on justice and accountability.” 

The CoI on Burundi was established in 2016. Its mandate[3] was renewed in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. During the Council’s 49th session (HRC49), in February-March 2022, the Council’s President will appoint a Special Rapporteur on Burundi, to be chosen among a list of qua­lified candidates. The Special Rapporteur mandate will be part of the Council’s special proce­dures,[4] namely inde­pendent, unpaid human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. 

 

For more information, please contact: 

Hassan Shire 

Executive Director, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 772 753 753 (English and Somali)

Estella Kabachwezi 

Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders; [email protected] or +256 782 360 460 (English) 

 

[1] See https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/sdpage_e.aspx?b=10&se=220&t=4

[2] DefendDefenders et al., “Burundi: The Human Rights Council should continue its scrutiny and pursue its work towards justice and accountability,” 18 August 2021, https://defenddefenders.org/burundi-the-human-rights-council-should-continue-its-scrutiny-and-pursue-its-work-towards-justice-and-accountability/ (accessed on 7 October 2021).

[3] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIBurundi/Pages/CoIBurundi.aspx

[4] See https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

 


 

Communiqué (version française) : « Le Burundi et l’ONU : un nouveau chapitre, pas une page blanche »

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