Statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue with the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi
CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry, and thank the Commission for its report.
We welcome that President Ndayishimiye has invited more than 300,000 refugees to return to Burundi, having previously been forced to flee the country. But despite remarks by President Ndayishimiye during his inauguration speech promising accountability and a more transparent approach to tackling human rights violations, the police, the National Intelligence Service, and members of the armed wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party – the Imbonerakure – continue to harass and intimidate human rights defenders and activists. Several members of the new government are subject to international individual sanctions for their alleged responsibility in human rights violations in Burundi since 2015. We call for thorough and impartial investigations to end impunity.
Last week, two former military officers, Pontien Baritonda and Prime Niyongabo, were arrested by the NSI. They remain in detention without charge. 29 political activists were arrested earlier this month. Journalists Christine Kamikazi, Agnès Ndirubusa, Égide Harerimana and Térence, of Iwacu media group, remain in prison for investigating rebel activities in October 2019.
We call on the government to unconditionally release all politically motivated detainees including activists, human rights defenders and journalists and to carry out credible investigations into attacks against them. We further call on the government to lift bans on broadcasting outlets, end the use of internet disruptions to control the flow of information, and review repressive legislation.
The political transition in Burundi presents an opportunity to reset Burundi’s relationship with the UN human rights system. We ask the commission to elaborate on opportunities for renewed engagement with the government for the implementation of its findings and recommendations, particularly towards accountability.
With real opportunities for meaningful human rights progress in Burundi, we further call on the Council to renew this vital mandate at this critical time.
Civic space in Burundi is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor