Statement at the UN Human Rights Council: Attacks on civic space in Burundi

Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on on Burundi
Oral Statement

We remain extremely concerned by the grave human rights violations taking place in Burundi, which show no sign of abating.

In January, at least 60 people were arrested after publicly advocating that citizens reject the proposed constitutional amendment, which would extend President Pierre Nkurunziza’s term in office beyond 2020, when his current term will end. A May 2018 referendum will determine whether the amendment - which would allow Nkurunziza to serve another two seven-year terms after 2020 - will be adopted. 

Last week on 9 March 2018, three human rights defenders from Parole et actions pour le réveil des consciences et de l'évolution des mentalités (PARCEM), one of the few remaining civil society organisations operating in Burundi, were sentenced to 10 years in prison. Judges at the court reportedly announced the verdict without representation from the defendants' lawyers.

On 13 February 2018, human rights defender Germain Rukuki, who has been detained since 13 July 2017, appeared before court. Three new charges of “assassination", "destruction of public and private buildings", and "participation in an insurrectionist movement" were added to his two initial charges of “breaching the internal security of the State” and “rebellion”. Another human rights defender Netsor Nibitanga is still being held by the National Intelligence Sercives and his whereabouts remain unknow.

In February alone exiled human rights organisation, Ligue Iteka, recorded 22 killings, 1 disappearance, 15 cases of torture and 145 arbitrary arrests. The rise in arrests and crackdown are believed to be related to the referendum. These reports corroborate UN envoy Michel Kafando’s recent conclusion that the political situation in Burundi remains deeply tenuous and that conditions are unfit for elections.

CIVICUS calls on the government of Burundi to immediately cease its attacks on human rights defenders and as a Member State of the Human Rights Council, to fully cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

 

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