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Burundi: Commission of Inquiry presents initial activities and observations

  Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi

Geneva, 13 March 2017 – Mr Fatsah Ouguergouz (Chair), Ms Reine Alapini Gansou and Ms Françoise Hampson, members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi established under resolution 33/24*, presented their first oral briefing** to the Human Rights Council today. Their presentation included a summary of the work undertaken since their appointment in November 2016 as well as their initial observations on the human rights situation in Burundi.

“We are concerned by the scale and gravity of the human rights violations and abuses that have been brought to our attention,” they stated.

“On the basis of a first series of interviews held with a range of sources, the trends observed in 2015 and 2016 appear to be continuing,” they added.

During their briefing, Mr Ouguergouz, Ms Gansou and Ms Hampson noted persistent allegations of violations of the right to life and physical integrity, notably an increase in enforced disappearances. Arrests, particularly of people suspected of participating in opposition groups, continue to be reported, as do allegations of torture.

The exercise of some civil liberties continues to be obstructed, especially following the adoption of restrictive new laws on non-governmental organisations. Most journalists, members of civil society and opposition parties who had fled in 2015 are still in exile.

The members of the Commission of Inquiry also noted practices of extortion and ransom, which appear to have increased following a weakening of the rule of law in the country.

“We are particularly concerned by the near-complete impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these violations. Even when victims or witnesses are able to identify suspected perpetrators, cases of prosecution of state agents, or those who appear to have their support, are rare,” they deplored.

“We reiterate our call to the Government of Burundi to cooperate with our Commission. This cooperation is very important for our investigations into violations and abuses committed by all parties. We intend to carry out these investigations in a professional, independent and impartial manner and to listen to all stakeholders,” they stated.

Mr Ouguergouz, Ms Gansou and Ms Hampson also called on Human Rights Council member States, regional states, the United Nations, the African Union and sub-regional organisations to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.

The Commission has published a call for submissions on its webpage** in order to gather information from all interested individuals and organisations.

As per Human Rights Council resolution 33/24, the Commission will give a second oral briefing at the 35th session of the Human Rights Council in June 2017 and will present its final report at the 36th session of the Council in September 2017.

* The text of resolution A/HRC/33/24 is available at:
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session33/Pages/ResDecStat.aspx 

** The complete text of the oral briefing of the members of the Commission of inquiry and the call for submissions are available on the Commission’s web page :
http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIBurundi/Pages/CoIBurundi.aspx

Media queries:  Rolando Gómez, +41 (0) 22 917 9711, rgomez@ohchr.org, and Cédric Sapey, +41 (0) 22 917 9751, csapey@ohchr.org