Two days after Burundi was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the Council renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and extended its scrutiny of the country’s human rights situation. DefendDefenders welcomes this decision, through which the Council made clear that because of its human rights record, Burundi is unfit for membership. The United Nations (UN) secretariat should now ensure that adequate resources are allocated to the Special Rapporteur on Burundi to allow him to fulfil his mandate.
“Eight years after the outbreak of one of East Africa’s worst human rights crises, violations persist and impunity is entrenched,” said Hassan Shire, Executive Director, DefendDefenders. “The Council did the right thing by maintaining international attention to the country: Burundi should not become a forgotten crisis.”
The resolution adopted today highlights human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi, including killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, acts of torture, and sexual and gender-based violence. It deplores the reduced space for civil society and condemns the widespread impunity perpetrators enjoy.
As in previous years, the Council also urges the government of Burundi to resume its cooperation with UN human rights bodies and mechanisms. In July 2023, the government walked out of a review of its human rights record by a UN committee. In 2019, Burundi forced the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to close its country presence. The government has consistently refused to engage with the Special Rapporteur (2021-2023) and its predecessor, the Commission of Inquiry (2016-2021).
“Burundi’s first term as a Council member (2016-2018) was deplorable: the government voted against key human rights initiatives, undermined independent experts, and exercised reprisals against human rights defenders,” said Estella Kabachwezi, Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders. “We have no illusions over this new term, but we will continue to urge Burundi to meaningfully engage with the Council.”
Prior to the Council’s 54th session, over forty civil society organisations called on states to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and continue to monitor Burundi’s situation. They also insisted on the need for adequate resourcing. In line with their asks, today’s resolution requests the UN Secretary-General to “provide the Special Rapporteur with the assistance and all resources necessary to fulfil the mandate, with all its functions.”
The Human Rights Council, the UN’s top human rights body, is holding its 54th regular session (HRC54) from 11 September to 13 October 2023. It adopted important resolutions on country situations, including Sudan, Russia, and Afghanistan, and thematic issues. After Human Rights Council elections took place on 10 October 2023, elected candidate countries, including Burundi, will assume membership from 1 January 2024 to 31 December 2026. During its first term (2016-2018), Burundi failed to respect basic membership standards and set negative precedents, as DefendDefenders showed in a report.
For more information, please contact:
Advocacy, Research and Communications Manager, DefendDefenders
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