Despite the persistence of human rights violations in Burundi, an independent United Nations expert on the country has called on the international community to step up its support for the Government as it works to consolidate progress following over a dozen years of ethnic violence.
The people of Burundi need “to see the dividends of peace to justify the decision which they made in 2005 to abandon the bullet for the ballot,” said Akich Okola, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi, in an address to the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural (Third) Committee on Friday.
Tensions within the ruling Conseil National de Défense et de la Démocratie- Force de Défense et de la Démocratie (CNDD-FDD) have fostered conditions that “had a negative impact on the human rights situation, and polarized Burundian society to a level that could constitute a threat to the peace process and stability of the national institutions,” he said.
Despite the persistence of serious violations, including rapes, the overall human rights situation seems to have improved, the expert said, citing improved relations between the media and the State and few cases of abuses by military personnel.
But “arbitrary arrests have been increasing,” he said, naming cases of “prolonged stay in police custody, detention in illegal places and lengthy pretrial detention.”
He also called for action to achieve justice in the case of the 2006 massacre in Muyinga of over 30 civilian detainees by military authorities. “It is incumbent upon the people of Burundi and the international community to bring pressure to bear on the Government of Burundi to bring to justice all those involved in this massacre in order to stem the culture of impunity which has been so deeply ingrained in the politics of Burundi,” he said.
The expert urged the Government to speed up the process of establishing a truth and reconciliation commission and a special tribunal. “The international community should support the Government in its efforts to reform the justice system in general and, more broadly, with humanitarian and development assistance,” he said.