Burundi : over 40 organizations demand the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

Burundi : over 40 organizations demand the renewal of the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur

Forty international and Burundian organizations are appealing to the United Nations Human Rights Council to request the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Burundi. For these organizations, this UN envoy still has work to do given the serious human rights violations that are still being committed in Burundi. Gitega meanwhile no longer wishes to hear about this Special Rapporteur. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

Several human rights defenders believe that this renewal is a necessity.

“While serious human rights violations continue in Burundi and the government has failed to hold perpetrators to account or take seriously the concerns raised by Burundian and international actors, the Council should not let up its attention”, they claim in an open letter.

During its 54th session scheduled from September 11 to October 13, the one-year mandate of the Special Rapporteur must be considered for extension or not.

In addition, they continue, “the Human Rights Council should ensure that the Special Rapporteur is fully able to fulfill his mandate, in particular to monitor the human rights situation in Burundi, to make recommendations for improving it and collecting, reviewing and evaluating information provided by all stakeholders building on the work of the Commission of Inquiry”.

They believe that in order to fulfill these functions of monitoring and documenting the situation, the Special Rapporteur needs adequate financial resources, which the Secretary General should provide, covering at least one additional staff member.

Among these organizations there is Human Rights Watch as line leader, Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture-Burundi (ACAT-Burundi), Amnesty International, Burundian Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained Persons (APRODH) , Ethiopian Center for Human Rights Defenders (EHRDC), Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P), CIVICUS, Collective of Lawyers for the Defense of Victims of Crimes under International Law Committed in Burundi (CAVIB), DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project), International Federation for Human Rights, Forum for the Strengthening of Civil Society (FORSC), Iteka League, European Network for Central Africa (EurAc), Tournons La Page Burundi and many others.

Impunity and ephemeral hope…

The human rights situation in Burundi continues to raise deep serious concerns.

“The modest improvements since President Évariste Ndayishimiye was sworn-in in June 2020, as well as the symbolic steps forward and promises he has made to respect freedom of expression and improve the justice system, cannot be are not translated into structural reforms”, denounce these organizations.

For these activists, the status quo of impunity only encourages the commission of despicable crimes.

“No high-level officials have been held to account for violations committed in connection with the crackdown on the 2015 protests or the targeting of opposition members and supporters, human rights defenders, journalists or other critical or independent voices. On the contrary, some seem to have been rewarded with government posts”, they note.

The Iteka League, which makes reports referenced by the US State Department, testifies to this.

“The violations have not stopped. We have recorded extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture, sexual and gender-based violence, illicit restrictions on civic space,” says Anschaire Nikoyagize, its chairperson.

He gives damning figures, just for the three years of President Neva’s first term.

“More than 1,800 targeted killings, more than 1,900 arbitrary arrests, more than 780 bodies found and hastily buried without investigation, more than 130 disappearances, more than 370 gender-based violencecases, more than 200 tortures”, describes Mr. Nikoyagize .

This is why, he insists, “we demanded that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur be extended to report these cases, otherwise crimes would be committed in the absence of alerts”.

Last July, the Special Rapporteur had also drawn up a gloomy assessment of the human rights situation in Burundi, before the UN.

“Despite the positive and reassuring discourse, the country is evolving in a context of monopolization of state power by a single party. The civic space has shrunk with intolerance and repression of civil liberties, which results in the weakening of opposition political parties, self-censorship of the media, arbitrary arrests of political opponents, activists of the civil society and the maintenance of opponents, journalists and activists in exile”, noted Fortuné Gaétan Zongo.

For him, any critical voice has no place in Burundi.

“Faced with systematic self-censorship for fear of reprisals, only civil society actors in exile are able to work without risk, taking precautions. Unfortunately and even forced into exile, the same defenders are subject to reprisals and by way of illustration the Burundian delegation slammed the door (during the 138th session of the human rights committee) refusing to sit down with certain actors in exile”, he insisted.

Gitega not commenting…

Contacted by our colleagues from the Voice of America to react to the call from Burundian and international civil society organizations, the spokesperson for the Burundian government, Prosper Ntahorwamiye, abstained from any comment.

However, last July, the ambassador of Burundi in Geneva had rejected the UN report, denouncing an instrumentalization orchestrated by the enemies of her country.

“Burundi for the nth time reiterates that it does not recognize the mandate imposed on it considering that this mechanism results from the behavior of a Council manipulated for purposes not yet known. It serves to perpetuate a thoughtful, deliberate and orchestrated campaign of disinformation against the backdrop of incessant reports on the so-called worrying human rights situation”, had insisted, in an arrogant tone Ambassador Elisa Nkerabirori.

For the time being, these organizations are instead calling for the UN’s effort to dissect “superficial signals in favor of a more open civic space that have not materialized into structural reforms or a tangible improvement in the environment in which civil society organizations evolve”.

Burundi should show it has nothing to hide, according to Anschaire Nikoyagize on behalf of fellow activists.

“Why the Burundian government continues to deny or minimize the seriousness of human rights problems in the country, and refuses to fully cooperate with independent human rights bodies and mechanisms and to allow them access to the country?, he asks himself.


These organizations are ironic about the Bunyoni case.
They wonder “whether the arrest and provisional detention, on the basis of several serious charges, of former Prime Minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni constitutes an opportunity for justice” before insisting that it is regrettable ” that he is not at this stage facing charges relating to his involvement in serious human rights violations that he ordered or supervised, including acts of torture and killings by the police, particularly when he was Minister of Public Security”.

“There is no indication that there may have been an investigation into these allegations. Procedural guarantees and his right to a fair trial must moreover be respected, as for any Burundian citizen”, they suggest.

Appointed at the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council, in October 2021, Burkinabè Fortuné Gaétan Zongo has not yet had the right to access Burundian territory.

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