Burundi must engage in a credible and inclusive democratization process, says United Nations expert (UN)

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Burundi must engage more effectively in the rule of law and the fight against impunity for violations and abuses committed since 2015, a UN independent expert said today.

Despite the commitments and measures taken by the government, the human rights situation in Burundi has not changed in a substantial and lasting way, said Fortuné Gaétan Zongo, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights. in Burundi during the submission of his first report to the Human Rights Council since taking over the mandate.

“It is crucial and urgent to initiate reforms and a credible and inclusive democratization process in Burundi to avoid a repetition of past cycles of violence,” Zongo said. In his report, the expert recalls the obligation to render accounts since the 2015 crisis and calls for deeper institutional reforms.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that in its 2018 Universal Periodic Review, Burundi had accepted recommendations aimed at combating impunity and agreed to establish a fully transparent and fair judicial system in accordance with international standards. In this regard, the expert recommended adopting priority measures to put an end to human rights violations and allow access to reparations, and to implement the recommendations of treaty bodies, special procedures and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

The Special Rapporteur noted the beginning of efforts to prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, but expressed concern about the selective impunity in the prosecution of alleged perpetrators of grave violations in favor of common law crimes. “The few cases of complaints of serious violations have rarely resulted in impartial investigations, and even more rarely in the prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators, which in itself is a violation of the right to an effective remedy,” Zongo said.

Given the number of cases pending before the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the many reports of enforced disappearances, the Special Rapporteur recommended that Burundi ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from enforced disappearances. He called for concrete actions in line with the provisions of relevant international legal instruments.

The Special Rapporteur recalled that truth commissions must not only be independent but also be perceived as such by those involved in the consolidation of peace and reconciliation. He lamented the limited progress on other aspects of the transitional justice agenda, including accountability, reparations, land restitution, and security and justice sector reform.

Regarding restrictions on civic space, the expert’s report reveals that opposition political parties and trade unions find it difficult to meet. He also noted the difficult situation of human rights defenders, many of whom have been forced into exile where they live in great insecurity. The Special Rapporteur noted that human rights organizations were working in a climate of fear of reprisals. He lamented that laws on foreign non-governmental organizations and press laws limit democratic space and strengthen government control.

The Special Rapporteur underlined that the Independent National Commission for Human Rights (CNIDH) has an “A” status as a national human rights institution and works constantly to protect and promote human rights. man in Burundi. However, he recommended that the Burundian authorities guarantee its formal and material independence and provide the commission with the means necessary to carry out its mandate.

He highlighted the progress made in the fight against human trafficking in Burundi, where the judiciary has launched several investigations and prosecutions into alleged offences, convicted traffickers and referred victims for assistance. The country has also institutionalized anti-trafficking training for law enforcement officials and passed Law No. 1/25 of November 5, 2021 regulating migration to Burundi.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi reiterated his willingness to cooperate fully with the Government to consolidate efforts to protect human rights and identify solutions to the challenges facing the country. He reiterated his request to visit Burundi and interact with the competent authorities and institutions.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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