Enough is enough: NGOs call for Burundi suspension from UN Human Rights Council

October 26, 2016

In an open letter to the UN members states, dated 26 October 2016,  twelve NGOs, coming from all regions, call for the suspension of Burundi from the Human Rights Council given the combination of its flagrant refusal to coöperate with the Council and the gross and systematic violations of human rights occurring in the country. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/what-is-burundi-doing-in-the-un-human-rights-council/]. Here the main points:

The action called for is a resolution or joint statement at the Human Rights Council or the Third Committee of the General Assembly recommending suspension if Burundi fails to fully cooperate with the recently mandated Commission of Inquiry on the country, with a resolution at the 71st session of the General Assembly resulting in suspension if such full cooperation is not promptly provided.

Operative paragraph 8 of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 says that ‘the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights’. OP8 should be read in conjunction with OP9, which provides that ‘members elected to the Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights [and] shall fully cooperate with the Council’.

The Letter then provides relevant findings, such as:

= the recent report of United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) which found abundant evidence’ of ‘continuing and systematic, gross human rights violations which may amount to crimes against humanity ’

= Human Rights Council Resolution 33/24 which expressed alarm at evidence and conclusions ‘that gross violations are systematic and patterned and that impunity is pervasive’.

= HRC Res 33/24 which ‘deplores the unprecedented non-cooperation of the Government of Burundi with the Committee against Torture during the review of the State on 29 July 2016, and the retaliatory threat to disbar Burundian lawyers participating in the review’.

= the recent government communiqué of 11 October 2016 stating that Burundi has ‘decided to suspend all cooperation and collaboration’ with OHCHR in Burundi and declaring each of the UNIIB experts to be persona non grata in the country. Burundi has also foreshadowed non-cooperation with the Council mandated Commission of Inquiry and the Human Rights Council itself, with the Government declaring HRC Res 33/24 to be ‘inapplicable’ in or to Burundi.

In light of their findings of gross and systematic violations of human rights, and serious concerns as to non-cooperation with international human rights mechanisms, the UNIIB experts made the unprecedented recommendation that ‘the Human Rights Council should consider whether Burundi can remain a member of the Council in terms of paragraph 8 of General Assembly Resolution 60/25’.

The time has come for Member States to take concrete steps to implement this recommendation for four key reasons.

The undersigned NGOs make clear that waiting until Burundi actually fails to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry before taking joint and concrete action towards suspension would ignore the actual context and amount to a failure to act preventatively or to establish incentives and increase pressure for cooperation at a critical time.

The combination of expert findings of gross and systematic violations and formal government declarations of non-cooperation makes Burundi a particular case in which the criteria for suspension envisaged by OP8 and OP9 of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 are clearly and objectively met. A failure by UN Members States to take action in these circumstances risks de-legitimising the Human Rights Council and would fundamentally call into question the important and carefully negotiated provisions of General Assembly Resolution 60/251.

Moreover, Burundi’s actions to date are wholly inconsistent with provisions of the Charter of the United Nations. Read together, Articles 55(c), 56 and 2(2) of the UN Charter impose a legal obligation on UN Members States to cooperate in good faith and not to obstruct the United Nations (including the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms) in order to promote respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Preventative action should be taken by the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and Member States to ensure that Burundi acts in a manner consistent with the UN Charter .

Conclusions and recommended actions

Excellency, in light of the above we urge your delegation to take one or more of the following actions:

  1. Initiate or support a resolution or joint statement at the Human Rights Council or other appropriate forum in Geneva calling on Burundi to address gross and systematic violations of human rights and to cooperate fully and in good faith with the international human rights system (including the Commission of Inquiry) and recommending that, in the absence of such action and cooperation, the General Assembly adopt a resolution to suspend Burundi.
  2. Initiate or support a resolution or joint statement at the Third Committee of the General Assembly in New York in similar terms to the above.
  3. Formally pledge support for a resolution to be adopted by the plenary of the General Assembly suspending Burundi’s membership of the Human Rights Council in the event that gross and systematic human rights violations continue and that Burundi does not cooperate fully and in good faith with the Council and its mechanisms.

Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.

Yours sincerely:

  • International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • International Commission of Jurists
  • African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS)
  • Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  • Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
  • DefendDefenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defender Project)
  • Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
  • West African Human Rights Defenders Network (WAHRDN / ROADDH)
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)


NGOs call for Burundi suspension from UN Human Rights Council – East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project





2 Responses to “Enough is enough: NGOs call for Burundi suspension from UN Human Rights Council”

  1. […] The Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will present an oral briefing to the Council on 13 March. Last October, ISHR along with a group of other NGOs issued a joint statement calling on member States of the Council to initiate action to suspend Burundi due to its lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms and the severity of human rights violations in the country. Since then, Burundi has consistently failed to live up to commitments in General Assembly Resolution 60/251, by not cooperating with UN experts and treaty bodies. As a result, the country no longer meets basic membership standards. During the 58th session of the UN Committee against Torture, the State did not show up for the outcome of its review. Moreover, it has declared that it will no longer cooperate with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Sustained and systematic human rights violations coupled with a flagrant lack of cooperation with the human rights system are clear indications that the State has failed to uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting human rights. ISHR reiterates the call on members to initiate the process towards the suspension of Burundi from the Council. The Council must take immediate action to deal with cases of contempt in order to preserve its own integrity and credibility. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-…] […]

  2. […] The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-…] […]

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