The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported today that a team of independent experts mandated to probe violations and abuses in Burundi has not been able to enter the country.
“The experts have been mandated by the [UN Human Rights] Council to swiftly investigate violations and abuses of human rights in Burundi, make recommendations on the improvement of the human rights situation and to engage in a dialogue with the authorities and other relevant actors of the ongoing crisis,” Cécile Pouilly, an OHCHR spokesperson, told reporters in Geneva at a press briefing.
Ten days ago UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that deeply worrying new trends have been emerging in Burundi, including cases of sexual violence by security forces and a sharp increase in enforced disappearances and torture cases. The crisis erupted when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run for a controversial third term last April.
In December, a special session of the Council adopted a resolution requesting High Commissioner Zeid to “urgently organize and dispatch on the most expeditious basis possible a mission by independent existing experts.”
His Office set up a team comprising three experts: two UN Special Rapporteurs specializing in extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and in the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and a third expert, who is a Member of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
Given the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi and the request for an oral update to the Council at its next session in March, the High Commissioner requested the Government of Burundi to allow the team to start its first mission to the country yesterday.
“The team was not able to deploy due to the lack of response to date from the Burundian authorities,” indicated Ms. Pouilly. “We hope the Burundian authorities will take all the necessary steps, including granting of visas, to allow for the prompt deployment of the experts on the ground.”
In a statement issued today, OHCHR said it regrets this delay and fears that it might hamper the ability of the team to fulfil its mandate and report in an appropriate and timely manner to the Council.