Christof Heyns, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made a statement on behalf of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) to the 31st Session of the OHCHR Human Rights Council on March 22 on UNIIB’s visit to Burundi. The UNIIB also includes Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, and Maya Sahli Fadel, Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Special Rapporteur on refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants of the same institution.
Heyns noted that this visit marks the beginning of what will be a lengthy process, and that any peacebuilding must be owned by Burundian society. The international community can only offer its assistance. The UNIIB reports a range of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, detention and torture carried out by the state and sometimes by the armed opposition, as well as the violent compression of space for civil society to operate. Heyns listed principle challenges including the opacity of the situation, the presence of the past conflict in people’s perceptions of current events, and deficits in governance that have corroded public trust. In the long term these governance issues must be addressed. In the short term, human rights monitors must be allowed to assess events on the ground, space for civil society must be reopened, government officials must refrain from inflammatory language, must engage in meaningful and frank discussions with the Government of Rwanda, and cease attacks and impunity for violence.
The UNIIB independent experts propose that the next visit to Burundi begin on 13 June 2016.
Heyn’s full statement can be downloaded from the UNIIB website here.