(Paris, France-22 September, 2020) Contra Nocendi International supports the call for renewal of the mandate for the United Nations Commision of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi, as expressed in a recent letter by 43 organisations, including Human Rights Watch, submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Since its establishment in 2016, the Commission has provided critical information on the human rights situation in the east African country. As the successor of the U.N. Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIB), it has documented systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and abuses. Renewing the mandate will provide the best opportunity to prompt meaningful human rights progress in Burundi.
As the joint letter to the U.N. HRC highlights, the CoI remains the only independent mechanism mandated to document human rights violations and abuses -- including their extend and whether they may consitute crimes under international law, and to monitor and to publicly report on the situation in Burundi. We strongly agree that the Council has a responsibility to continue supporting victims and surviviors of violation and work to improve the human rights situation in Burundi. An end to the Commission's independent investigation could hinder the justice survivors deserve, while fostering impunity for perpetrators.
The Commission of Inquiry was created by the Human Rights Council resolution 33/24 and was mandated to investigate human rights violations and abuses committed in Burundi since civil protests and outburst of violence began in 2015, triggered by the announcement of late president Pierre Nkurunziza's run for a third term. According to a report by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), more than 400,000 Burundians have fled their country, 400 to 900 have disappeared, 1,200 have been killed and thousands have been tortured and detained without trial since 2015.
The Commission determines whether any of the violations constitute international crimes, identifies alleged perpetrators and formulates recommendations with the aim to counter impunity. Following the CoI appeal in 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) authorised an investigation into crimes against humanity, including murder, imprisonment, torture, enforced disappearance and sexual violence in Burundi within the period of 26 April 2015 until 26 October 2017. Two days after the ICC’s announcement of its decision, Burundi became the first nation to withdraw its membership from the ICC.
At its upcoming 45th session, the Human Rights Council will decide on the renewal of the CoI mandate and the Commission’s report on Burundi will be presented. The newly elected government of Burundi -- under Évariste Ndayishimiye -- raises hopes among the international community that decades of violence and state oppression may come to an end.
Still, Contra Nocendi believes that independent human rights scrutiny must continue.
During the recent oral presentations to the Human Rights Council in July 2020, the commission’s experts warned that “Burundi needs more than a new President to break the cycle of violence.”