Denouncing reports of open intimidation from armed militia against citizens of Burundi, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has called upon the Government to take immediate effective action to protect its people.
The 18-member expert Committee, which monitors worldwide implementation of the International Convention after which it is named, is also deeply concerned about a Civil Service questionnaire issued 8 November asking public servants to state their ethnicity. The experts are requesting that Burundi allow a UN police component approved in July by the UN Security Council to monitor the security and human rights situation in the country as soon as possible.
“Such a survey, given Burundi’s history of virulent ethnic conflict, could spread fear and further mistrust among the population, and could be hugely dangerous if misused,” said CERD Chairperson Anastasia Crickley in a news release.
Moreover, there have been recent reports of killings, summary executions, disappearances, torture, frequent use of hate speech by Government officials, and a growing number of people fleeing the country.
CERD decried the country’s increasing lack of cooperation with the international community and called upon the Government to reengage with the UN Human Rights Office. The Committee also urged Burundi to adhere to its human rights obligations, including those that arise under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The Committee’s early warning procedure was established in order to respond to various conflicts in the early 1990s and to prevent similar crises from arising and escalating into conflict and violence.
The procedure is meant to “above all, prevent the wounds of old conflicts from reopening,” said Ms. Crickley. “That is why we expressed alarm in August this year and this is why we are raising our voice again.”
She added that “Burundi is at a dangerous junction” and called upon the Government to “step back from any actions that risk stoking ethnic conflict and that could even be a precursor to mass atrocities.”