Burundi: UN Investigation Urges Strong Action in Response to Gross, Widespread, and Systematic Human Rights Violations

On September 20, 2016 the UN Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) published its final report. The investigation was headed by three independent experts, among them NYU Law Professor Pablo de Greiff, CHRGJ’s Transitional Justice Project Director and UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence. The report describes “abundant evidence of gross human rights violations,” possibly amounting to crimes against humanity, and perpetrated by the Government of Burundi and its associates. The report identifies deliberate, “widespread and systemic patterns of violations.”

Given the history of impunity and inter-ethnic violence in Burundi, the experts urged the African Union, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council and the Government of Burundi to take robust action to preserve gains made through the Arusha Accords and 2005 Constitution and to prevent spiraling mass violence.

The UNIIB documented hundreds of cases of summary executions, targeted assassinations, torture, sexual violence, and arbitrary detention deliberately carried out with impunity by the Government and its supporters. The Government has consistently issued a “blanket denial” of almost all alleged human rights violations. The majority of the victims were human rights defenders, journalists and those opposed or perceived to be opposed to the contentious third mandate of President Nkuruniziza. Almost 400,000 people have been displaced. The experts expressed grave concern about the trend of ethnically divisive rhetoric employed by the Government, and the serious risk of instability spreading across borders to affect the whole Great Lakes region.

The UNIIB experts have recommended the immediate establishment of an International Commission of Inquiry, the involvement of other independent international judicial processes, and that the Human Rights Council reconsider Burundi’s membership. The UNIIB experts further urge the UN to protect the civilian population, possibly through the invocation of Chapter VII of the UN Charter if violations persist and the Government continues to fail to comply with the July 29, 2016 UN Resolution authorizing the deployment of a UN police force.

The full report, which will be presented by UNIIB experts to the Human Rights Council on Tuesday, September 27, 2016, is available here.