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Burundi cuts ties with UN rights body after ‘genocide’ report

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People demonstrate against the European Union, the International Criminal Court and the Resolution against Burundi in Bujumbura on October 8, 2016. Burundi announced plans on October 7, 2016 to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a week after the UN began an enquiry into human rights abuses committed since April 2015. "It is perfectly clear that this is a plot to do harm to Burundi," said Gaston Sindimwo, Burundi's vice president, citing European Union "pressure" allegedly exerted on the UN, which opened a rights investigation a week ago. According to a list seen by AFP, the UN investigation is targeting a dozen members of the governing regime, including General Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, regarded as the second most powerful figure after President Pierre Nkurunziza. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

People demonstrate against the European Union, the International Criminal Court and the Resolution against Burundi in Bujumbura on October 8, 2016.┬áBurundi announced plans on October 7, 2016 to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), a week after the UN began an enquiry into human rights abuses committed since April 2015. “It is perfectly clear that this is a plot to do harm to Burundi,” said Gaston Sindimwo, Burundi’s vice president, citing European Union “pressure” allegedly exerted on the UN, which opened a rights investigation a week ago. According to a list seen by AFP, the UN investigation is targeting a dozen members of the governing regime, including General Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni, regarded as the second most powerful figure after President Pierre Nkurunziza.<br />/ AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

Burundi said Tuesday it had suspended co-operation with the UN’s main human rights body over its “complicity” in a report accusing Bujumbura of systematic abuses and warning of a risk of genocide.

The move came a day after the small central African state barred the report’s three authors.

“Following the complicity of the UN High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Burundi in the drafting of the dishonest and controversial report … the government of Burundi has decided to suspend all co-operation and collaboration with this office,” read a statement from the government.

Bujumbura added it had asked the OHCHR to set up a team to renegotiate the “mandate, duration and size” of its office in Burundi.
This consists of about 20 international staff and a network of Burundian staff deployed across the country.

Pablo de Greiff from Colombia, Christof Heyns from South Africa and Maya Sahli-Fadel of Algeria had been appointed in December to lead the independent probe which led to their being declared personae non grata.

Their report, issued last month. said “gross human rights violations have and are taking place (in Burundi), committed primarily by state agents and those linked to them.”

Thousands of people have been tortured, suffered sexual abuse or disappeared, while arbitrary detention has happened “on a massive scale”, the report said.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Monday expressed disapproval of Burundi’s decision to bar the authors.

“It’s critical that Burundi and every other country cooperate fully with the UN human rights mechanism and that is including working with those representing it,” he said.

– Withdrawal from ICC –
Last week, Burundi said it planned to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC), alleging there was “a plot to do harm” the country.

In April, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she was conducting a “preliminary examination” of the situation in Burundi — the first step towards a full investigation and possible prosecutions — looking into allegations including murder, torture, rape and forced disappearances.

Also last week, a representative of the non-governmental organisation Trial International was stripped of her visa and ordered to leave Burundi.

The employee planned to provide legal training to Burundian lawyers defending victims of state-sponsored violence.

Burundi has been in turmoil since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced plans in April last year to run for a third term, which he went on to win.

More than 500 people have died, many of them in extrajudicial killings blamed on Burundian police, security forces and militias linked to the ruling party, according to the United Nations.

At least 270,000 people have fled the country.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss the crisis in Burundi on Thursday.


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