UN Urges Burundi’s President to Improve Human Rights

GENEVA – U.N. experts are urging Burundi’s president to keep the promises he made when he assumed power in June to improve the country’s human rights record. The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Burundi has submitted a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council on the prevailing situation in the country.

The verdict is still out on whether President Evariste Ndayishimiye will become a champion of human rights or continue the repressive policies of his predecessor, Pierre Nkurunziza. The U.N. commission says the situation remains ambiguous.

President of the three-member commission, Doudou Diene, says since Ndayishimiye assumed power he has been promising to promote the rule of law, make the judicial system more impartial and strengthen reconciliation in the country. He spoke through an interpreter.

“We have seen that there have been the first steps in the right direction in recent months, which we welcome,” said Diene. “They are mere ad hoc gestures and that will not be enough for lasting improvement. But we would like to say that whilst there has been signs of improvement, there are also reasons for concern.”

Diene says the commission recommends several concrete actions, which, if they are followed, would decisively advance human rights. First and foremost, he says, is to stop human rights violations and fight impunity. He speaks through an interpreter.

“The first positive sign the government has shown is that it has the resources when it wishes to control the Imbonerakure (the youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party) by holding some of them accountable for serious crimes and by allowing them to be brought to justice and punished, notably for the murder of political opponents. That is encouraging,” said Diene.

Unfortunately, he says grave violations of human rights continue to be committed and the Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling party, continues to usurp the role of the police and army in rural areas and commit criminal acts with impunity.

The commission also calls on the government to guarantee the safety of journalists and freedom of the media. It says the government must create an environment in which human rights defenders and political opponents can operate in safety and without fear of being arbitrarily arrested or forcibly disappeared.

Burundi’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Zacharie Gahutu, says he regrets that certain ill-intentioned stakeholders are seeking to tarnish Burundi’s image at a time when major efforts are being made to stabilize the country. He calls on the council not to undermine the government’s efforts and let it get on with the job of making progress.

Source: Voice of America