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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

UN Investigators Accuse Burundi of Enacting Strategy to Undermine Elections

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The U.N.’s Commission of Inquiry on Burundi accuses the ruling party and Burundian authorities of implementing a strategy based on violence that skewers election results in their favor.  The commission has just submitted its final report to the U.N. Human Rights Council. 

This is the fourth and final year that the human rights situation in Burundi has been under the investigative lens of the Commission of Inquiry. 

The commission says there has been no reduction in widespread, systematic human rights violations in the country over this period.  Hopes that conditions would improve under the new government of Evariste Ndayishimiye – it adds – have been dashed.

The report finds the electoral process, which concluded on August 24, was not marred by mass violence.  However, it says serious human rights violations, some of which may constitute crimes under international law, have been committed.  

The report documents cases of summary executions, arbitrary arrests, torture, and sexual violence.   Commission chair Doudou Diene notes these violations did not occur by chance.  

He says the ruling party and Burundian authorities have implemented a strategy based on violence and human rights violations in order to ensure they win all elections.  He spoke through an interpreter.

“The first element of this strategy was to undermine the political opposition, particularly the CNL (National Congress for Liberation), which rapidly became the main rival of the ruling party,” said Diene. “Everything was done to reduce its chances of winning the various elections.” 

During the pre-electoral period, Diene says a number of CNL members were arrested and arbitrarily detained, some were tortured and fell victim of ill-treatment, some were killed. 

“One of the characteristics of the election was an increase in hate speech and attacks on the opposition, particularly by members of the CNDD (National Council for the Defense of Democracy) and local authorities,” said Diene through an interpreter. “There also was hate speech made with an ethnic dimension.  This was tolerated by the government.”  

Burundi’s Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Renovat Tabu calls the commission’s report insulting and defamatory.  He says the commission has violated provisions of the UN Charter and other human rights standards and cannot be entrusted with the task of judging others.

He says his country has made great progress since 2015 in promoting and protecting human rights and deserves to be removed from the Council agenda.  He says the Council should end the Commission’s mandate to monitor conditions in Burundi.

The Commission disagrees.  The three-member panel urges the international community to continue following the development of the human rights situation in Burundi and to ensure that perpetrators of crimes in that country are brought to justice.

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