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Burundi: Security Council urges measures to bring rights violators to justice

Burundi: Security Council urges measures to bring rights violators to justice

Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad
The United Nations Security Council and the world body’s top human rights official today urged the Government of Burundi to take steps toward consolidating peace, including by bringing the perpetrators of abuses to justice.

The Council adopted a presidential statement on Burundi welcoming recent political developments in the country, including steps by the Government aimed at promoting dialogue, national reconciliation and social harmony.

The Council statement, read out by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad of the United States, also urged the Government “to intensify its efforts on all aspects of reform of the security sector and to address the issue of human rights abuses committed by members of the security services, including by bringing perpetrators to justice and encourages international partners.”

In addition, the Government was urged to “step up its efforts to combat impunity and to promote and protect human rights, paying in this context particular attention to reducing the high level of gender-based violence and of violence against children.”

The Council encouraged the Secretary-General and the Burundian authorities to pursue their dialogue with a view to agreeing on the establishment of a transitional justice mechanism based on the highest standards of justice and international human rights.

The Council called on all Burundian political players “to maintain the spirit of dialogue, consensus-building and inclusiveness, including in addressing the issue of power sharing in an equitable manner, that enabled them to achieve a successful transition in their country,” the President said.

It welcomed the establishment of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB) and the support it provides to the peace consolidation process.

Welcoming a briefing it received from the Chair of the Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission on its activities relating to Burundi, the Council encouraged the Government and BINUB to devise a sound strategic framework to foster a commitment to consolidating peace.

Mr. Khalilzad said the Council “looks forward to receiving further advice on Burundi from the Peacebuilding Commission.”

The Peacebuilding Commission met today on Burundi, hearing an address from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, who has just returned from a mission to the country and others in Africa’s Great Lakes region.

Ms. Arbour cited “a general concern over a lack of independence of the judiciary, a culture of impunity and continued violence perpetrated by State agents and armed groups throughout the country.”

At the same time, she hailed “a real determination from all sectors of society to participate actively in the ongoing democratic process, which, if properly channelled, should ensure lasting peace, justice and reconciliation.”

Ms. Arbour said her talks in Burundi led to agreement on fundamental issues concerning transitional justice mechanisms aimed at fostering reconciliation. The parties concerned reached “an unequivocal consensus” on the nature of national consultations that should precede the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Tribunal.

They also agreed that there will be no amnesties for the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, she said.

Based on meetings with people in Burundi, she said there is a widespread perception that “political authorities regularly influence judicial processes.”

The international community, she added, must continue “to urge the Government of Burundi to hold perpetrators of human rights violations to account and to support initiatives to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and the establishment of a society based on the rule of law.”

Women and children are often the main victims of abuses in the country, Ms. Arbour added, calling on the authorities to “resolutely combat sexual and all other forms of violence against women and children.” She also called for stigmatizing the perpetrators “rather than the women victims who are often ostracized after being raped.”

The Peacebuilding Commission was set up last year to marshal resources at the disposal of the international community to advise and propose strategies for post-conflict recovery, focusing attention on reconstruction, institution-building and sustainable development, in countries emerging from conflict.