High Commissioner leaves Burundi and the repression goes up…

April 29, 2015

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein (second left) at a roundtable discussion during his mission to Burundi.Photo: UN Electoral Observation Mission in Burundi (MENUB)
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights left Burundi on 15 April with a final exhortation that “Burundian parties must choose the path to democracy and the rule of law“. Only a week later the authorities increased their crackdown on dissent to silence those who oppose a third term for the President.
This is a critical moment in Burundi’s history,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein during his mission to Burundi. “Its future may well depend on which path is chosen by individual politicians and their supporters, as well as various key authorities, over the next few weeks.”… “And history – and possibly national or international courts – will judge those who kill, bribe or intimidate their way to power.

He pointed out that recent events were of great concern, with tensions rising sharply over the past few months as the elections approach, reportedly stoked by an increase in politically motivated harassment, intimidation and acts of violence, as well as a reported rise in hate speech. He pointed to “extreme examples of hate speech” heard at a pro-Government political rally in Bujumbura and several examples of attacks on and intimidation of journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians.

“I will put it bluntly,” he said “As I prepared for this mission, I talked to many knowledgeable people, within and outside the UN, in Geneva and New York. They were all, without exception, alarmed about the direction the country appears to be taking. The Secretary-General has signalled his concerns, and so has the Security Council.”

He cited the main cause for concern as the pro-Government militia called the Imbonerakure, which he said appeared to be operating increasingly aggressively and with total impunity. People were fleeing the country, with up to 1,000 people per day crossing into Rwanda, and many of those leaving telling UN officials that their reason for leaving is fear of the Imbonerakure.

Mr. Zeid said the Government needed to send a clear message that extremism and impunity would no longer prevail and he added that all political demonstrations needed to be treated equally and in accordance with international laws and standards relating to freedom of assembly. Opposition politicians needed to play a part, too, refraining from inflation or exaggeration of facts to whip up anti-Government support and feed a climate of fear. They also needed to ensure that their supporters protest peacefully, and do not indulge in hate speech or react violently to perceived provocations. He said he had held several meetings since arriving in Burundi on Sunday, including with the country’s top officials, as well as civil society organizations, the National Human Rights Institution (CNIDH), foreign diplomats, opposition politicians, and key State institutions such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Independent National Electoral Commission, and the President of the Constitutional Court. “During the course of these meetings and discussions, it was very clear that many people here are also extremely worried,” …. “Ultimately, it is the authorities who have the obligation to protect all citizens and residents from intimidation and violence committed by any individual or group. They must also accept that criticism is a vital element of democracy, not a threat that must be crushed.”

A week later Front Line Defenders and the African defenders network EHAHRDP reported inter alia:

  • a clampdown on human rights defenders and journalists by Burundian authorities in connection with ongoing protests against President Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term widely deemed unconstitutional by Burundi’s civil society (with AP reporting 6 people killed at demonstrations over the weekend)
  • on 27 April 2015, human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was arrested and released a day later without charge after being held in police custody approximately 48 hours [Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, Laureate of the MEA 2007, is the President of the Burundi Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (APRODH). He is also a member of the coalition “Halt to Nkurunziza’s third term”, a peaceful campaign which was launched in January 2015 by several civil organisations to oppose a third presidential term].  In May 2014, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa was also arrested and much later released [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/news-from-burundi-release-of-human-rights-defender-pierre-claver-mbonimpa/].
  • an arrest warrant seems also to have been issued against human rights defenders Messrs Pacifique Nininahazwe and Vital Nshimirimana from the Forum for the Strenghtening of Civil Society (FORSC), who are perceived as leading organisers of the campaign against the Nkurunziza’s third term.
  • state authorities forcibly closed the Bujumbura and Ngozi offices of the African Public Radio (Radio Publique Africaine – RPA), a private radio station of Burundi known for dealing with human rights-related issues
  • 0n Monday morning, police forcibly closed the Media Synergy Press Conference that was taking place at Maison de la Presse in Bujumbura.

The risks facing human rights defenders in Burundi, as well as the wider civilian population, are now at critical proportions,” said EHAHRDP’s director Hassan Shire.

https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/special-rapporteur-in-burundi-respect-the-work-of-human-rights-defenders-like-mbonimpa/

http://www.defenddefenders.org/2015/04/burundi-unprecedented-state-assault-on-human-rights-defenders-and-journalists/

United Nations News Centre – UN rights chief urges Burundi’s politicians to pick right path at ‘critical moment’ in country’s history.

One Response to “High Commissioner leaves Burundi and the repression goes up…”


  1. […] see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/high-commissioner-leaves-burundi-and-the-repression-goes-up… […]


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