A UN Independent investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) has unearthed several cases of human rights violations in the country.
The experts report, to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council next Tuesday, documents hundreds of cases of summary executions, targeted assassinations, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual violence.
Despite the Burundian government’s continued “blanket denial” of almost all alleged human rights violations, the report says there is abundant evidence of gross human rights violations, possibly amounting to crimes against humanity by the Government of Burundi and people associated with it.
“Any semblance of opposition to the government is dealt with ruthlessly and seemingly without fear of accountability. The accountability mechanisms are exceedingly weak and impunity is endemic,” the report says.
“We are gravely concerned about the general trend of ethnically divisive rhetoric by the government, as well as others, which may carry a serious potential of the situation spiraling out of control, including beyond Burundi’s borders.”
The experts urge the Burundian government, the AU, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council and other international actors to take a series of robust actions to preserve the achievements made in the Arusha Accord and in the 2005 Constitution, which led to the longest period of peace Burundi has known since its independence.
The suggested robust actions include immediate establishment of an international Commission of Inquiry, involvement of other independent international judicial processes, and reconsideration of Burundi’s membership to the UN Human Rights Council.
They also propose invocation of Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter if the violations continue and the government continues to fail to comply with a July 29 Security Council resolution authorising the deployment of a UN police force.
Executions have been committed on a large scale by the security forces, often supported by the ruling CNDD-FDD party’s youth wing, commonly known as the Imbonerakure (loosely translated as ‘those who see far’), the report says.
The experts note that the majority of the victims were opposed, or perceived to be opposed, to the third mandate of President Pierre Nkurunziza.
There are worrying signs of “a personality cult being built around the President,” they say.
The UNIIB report documents widespread use of torture and ill-treatment, with elements of the intelligence services, the police, the Imbonerakure, and others “consistently identified as the perpetrators.”
The report also outlines the massive displacement of almost 400,000 people as refugees and internally displaced people, and the devastating impact of the crisis on the country’s economy and social systems.
The experts also identified a pattern of sexual and gender-based violence, including reports of sexual violence against women and girls trying to flee Burundi.
The UNIIB was established by the Human Rights Council in December 2015 to investigate violations and abuses of human rights with a view to preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi.