By Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
39th session of the Human Rights Council
11 September 2018
Colleagues and friends,
As you will recall, Resolution 36/2, adopted on 28 September 2017, requested the High Commissioner to deploy a team of three experts to the Republic of Burundi to collect information concerning human rights violations, and to forward such information to the national judicial authorities to ensure accountability. The team of experts was also mandated to provide to the Government recommendations for technical assistance and capacity building that would help combat impunity and help uphold human rights.
Regrettably, the Government of Burundi did not cooperate with full implementation of Resolution 36/2. As a consequence, the High Commissioner is unable to provide this Council with the final report requested.
In its place, I am presenting a note on the human rights situation in Burundi (A/HRC/39/40), which reviews the circumstances of the Burundi authorities’ decision to revoke the visas of the experts in April 2018, some three weeks after their arrival in the country.
Although the Government of Burundi first cooperated in the implementation of resolution 36/2 by granting entry visas to all selected personnel, their sudden decision to cancel the visas of the entire team was not the subject of any prior discussion with OHCHR.
To be clear, the Office followed the usual protocol when deploying the team of experts, which was made up of OHCHR staff recruited on the basis of their specific expertise. The protocol is that deployment of UN technical staff in the field is not the subject of a prior announcement: issuance of an entry visa being taken as the equivalent to agreement of the State concerned.
After their arrival in Burundi the team of experts, preserving a collaborative spirit, did not embark on any substantive activity, as they were awaiting to be officially received by the Burundian authorities.
And to date, the Government of Burundi has not responded to communications sent by OHCHR to inform the authorities that once the Government’s authorization has been obtained the team is ready to return to Burundi to carry out its mandate.
I must note here that that Resolution 36/2 states that it is a “mission of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to improve the human rights situation and accountability in Burundi.” Burundi supported the adoption of Resolution 36/2, and as a member of this Council, it has a particular responsibility to cooperate with the Council’s mechanisms. Thus, it is a matter of concern that through its lack of cooperation Burundi has prevented the implementation of this Council’s resolution and the mandated work of the team of experts.
It is also regrettable that, contrary to the Government’s stated commitment to resuming full cooperation with the Office, as requested in Resolution 36/2, discussions on the next Memorandum of Understanding between OHCHR and the Government of Burundi have been stalled, also due to a lack of response by the Government.
The High Commissioner and her Office stands ready to work with the Government in a constructive and collaborative manner for the promotion and protection of human rights. We call on Burundi to fully resume its engagement with all international human rights bodies, including OHCHR.
I thank you Mr President.