United Nations member states have expressed alarm at the ongoing human rights violations in Burundi during the 36th Regular Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in New York on Tuesday.
Speaker after speaker spoke of abductions, executions and torture being carried out in the East African country, before urging the Burundian authorities to cooperate with the UNHCR.
Trial, an international NGO comprising a number of civil society organisations fighting impunity for war crimes, sent an open letter to the human rights council.
The letter entitled “Renewing the Mandate of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and Ensuring Accountability for Serious Crimes” urged the council to support a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Burundi.
It also called on the UNHRC to explore all options to ensure accountability for the crimes documented by the COI.
These included the opening of an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) whose Office of the Prosecutor announced the opening of a preliminary examination on April 25, 2016.
In addition, the UNHRC was urged to call for Burundi’s suspension from the Council, or at a minimum to explicitly request the General Assembly to take up the matter in accordance with a previous resolution.
“The COI has confirmed the continuation of serious human rights violations from April 2015 to date, including extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” said the letter.
Enforced disappearances and sexual violence perpetrated mainly by the National Intelligence Service (SNR), members of the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, the police and the army were also outlined.
“The COI confirmed that they have reasonable grounds to believe that several of the violations documented constitute crimes against humanity.”
More than 400 000 people have fled Burundi since April 2015.
On April 25, 2015, the ruling political party in Burundi, the National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy (CNDD-FDD), announced that incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza would run for a third term in the 2015 presidential election.
The announcement sparked protests by those opposed to Nkurunziza seeking a third term in office.