Burundi: Progress since 2020 elections, but rights abuses persist

Statement at the 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council 
Delivered by Cyriaque Nibitegeka

CIVICUS and independent Burundian civil society organisations welcome the important work of the Commission of Inquiry and thank the Commission for its update. 

We welcome the Presidential pardon of four journalists of Iwacu media group, who were prosecuted for investigating rebel activities in the country in October 2019. We also welcome the return of about 3,000 refugees from Rwanda, having previously been forced to flee the country. 

But serious human rights violations and abuses have continued since the 2020 elections, often with a view to deprive the main opposition party of opportunities to re-organise. These are mainly committed by members of the Imbonerakure youth league of the ruling party and by local officials who continue to enjoy nearly total impunity, often with participation from or tacit support of security officers.

Several recent returnees are reported missing, and the extrajudicial killings, arrests and arbitrary detentions of opposition members are far from ending. In February alone, there were at least 17 cases of extrajudicial execution, 170 cases of arbitrary detention and five cases of torture. Germain Rukuki, a human rights activist sentenced to 32 years in prison in April 2018, remains deprived of his liberty.

We call on the government to unconditionally release all politically motivated detainees including activists and human rights defenders.

The new administration in Burundi still has an opportunity to reset Burundi’s relationship with UN human rights mechanisms. 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 and long-term reform. 

Civic space in Burundi is rated as Closed by the CIVICUS Monitor